Metro Tech

As Square’s Plan to Put iPads in Cabs Get Approved, It Turns Out Verifone Was Already Testing Tablets

The biggest change to your taxi-riding experience since Cash Cab.
verifone taxi screen watermarked As Square’s Plan to Put iPads in Cabs Get Approved, It Turns Out Verifone Was Already Testing Tablets

via dailydooh.com

It seems like every other tech story these days is about the old guard banding together to protect the status quo. So it’s a relief to hear that  New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission agreed yesterday to test out Square’s proposal to replace Taxi TV with its own iPad mobile payments system, despite objections from Verifone and Creative Mobile Technologies–the duopoly that currently controls what technology gets placement in your yellow cab’s partition.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Square will mount a “ruggedized” iPad on the divider of the cabs. Using Square’s payment system, riders can swipe a credit card and decide whether to receive a receipt by paper, email, or text. Oh yeah, and a chance to look at a map on an iPad’s sleeker touchscreen.

Square also offers a chance to stop the squawking of the Taxi TVs, which New Yorkers voted the second-most annoying thing about cabs last year.

Part of the appeal, said TLC staff members who presented the Square proposal, is what will not be there: Unlike the current consoles that accept card payments in taxis, the Square proposal includes no advertising, and no video or sound, providing a respite from the cacophony that has turned off some riders and drivers.

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the bigger deal here is really the cost of credit card transaction fees, the burden for which is levied on cabdrivers. Square offers a 2.75 percent fee to Verifone’s and CMT’s 3.5 percent. With the latest numbers from January showing 55 percent percent of fares collected by credit cards, it’s a growing issue.

Verifone has argued that Square’s prices will go up when it has to absorb the cost of installing terminals, complying with security requirements, and managing tax withholdings. The Journal says Verifone and CMT will also be launching their own 30-cab pilot program to test new technology. But it’s hard to imagine that a startup like Square couldn’t be more nimble about cost-cutting.

After Betabeat called Square CEO Jack Dorsey “dashing,” in our post yesterday, Verifone reached out to plea for less bias. We assured them it was all very platonic and asked Verifone to explain what, exactly, was innovative about their proposal, which reportedly included  a lottery-ticket machine.

Pete Bartolik, from VeriFone Media Relations (and likely every bit as dashing!), said the company is already testing tablets in 50 cabs in the city. “The current fee structure, which we’re bound to by contract, was set six years ago and based on variety of services for passengers and operators, including GPS tracking (handy for recovering items left in taxis), trip logging, providing info/entertainment content,” he wrote by email.

Besides the lottery system,  Verifone is testing out other examples of payment-enabled media. “Other possibilities – buying a theater ticket while on route to the venue; getting dinner discount coupon as you’ve being driven to the restaurant; ordering/paying for items online based on ads playing in the taxi,” he said, adding, “We’ve already been running advertiser sponsored games, including one we did for Uno as well as a trivia game for Seinfeld. Much more is being explored such as social media tied to location, etc.”

Hmm, sounds like a far cry from “Silence is golden.”

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com