NYC Taxi Drivers Sue Over Video Screens

A group of New York taxi drivers sued the city on Wednesday to stop the installation of GPS tracking systems, mandated for every cab by Oct. 1. The cabbies allege that the GPS system, which enables new video screens to serve location-specific ads to passengers, would also allow the Taxi and Limousine Commission to track their movements. According to the lawsuit, the GPS systems would thus also give away cabbies' biggest trade secret--the routes they use when looking for fares.

Two weeks ago, a group of cabbies went on strike for two days during Fashion Week to protest the required installations. Cabbies are responsible for getting the equipment installed--in some cases, costing thousands of dollars. About 500 upgraded cabs are already on the streets.

Officials for the TLC declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, in the past, a TLC spokesman has stated emphatically that none of the GPS systems considered for installation would allow the TLC to record the movement of taxis. He added that the video screens have many benefits for taxi drivers. For example, they allow cash-strapped passengers to pay with credit cards.

While some of the required upgrades are technically separate equipment that could be installed individually, the TLC has mandated that they all be installed together as a single package. Furthermore, the video screens would be unable to deliver geographically targeted advertising without the GPS data.

In addition to electronic maps that show passengers the taxi's route, the video screens can deliver news, entertainment, weather, and sports scores, as well as local and national advertising. Several media companies have already wrangled contracts to supply content and advertising to the screens.

Clear Channel Taxi Media has partnered with NBC to create NY10, a channel playing news, weather, entertainment programming, public service announcements and advertising. And New York's WABC has partnered with VeriFone to produce Taxi TV, featuring content from WABC's Eyewitness News, AccuWeather and ESPN, as well as restaurant, nightlife, retail and hotel listings and ratings from the Zagat Survey.

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