GPS Get Lost, Say Cabbies

Dennis Faas's picture

It seems just about every week our lovable Bill Lindner discovers a new "Big Brother" plan in the tech universe. Most of the time, it has something to do with Microsoft or Windows Vista, but in this case the culprit is rather unexpected.

Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, have been devised to help people, not hurt them.


Not according to New York City's abundant taxi driver population. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), comprising some 10,000 cabbies, alleges that GPS allows management to spy on drivers. They're threatening to strike unless GPS technology is removed forever from their bright yellow vehicles.

How does taxi cab GPS work?

Responsible for the installation is New York City TLC, the group responsible for NYC's 13,000 or more taxi cabs. It's this body that passed a law mandating the installation of GPS systems in all taxis, beginning this October. (Source:

The installation and use includes four parts:

  • Credit or debit card payment system employed by Visa and Mastercard
  • Passenger Information Monitor (PIM) that blasts riders with advertisements (oh, and maps, too)
  • Trip Sheet Automation that acts as a vehicle locator
  • Text messaging services for the driver

So, what's the beef?

Aside from having management know where a cab is at all times, the installation of GPS is also a financial burden. Under contract, the owner of the cab is responsible for the $5,500-plus installation. And, since most cab drivers own their own taxis, this means they're immediately on the hook for expensive technology they don't want or, let's face it, need.

There's really very little bonus for the passenger, either. Although they can now pinpoint themselves on a map, few riders know city streets as well as the wheelman. For all intents and purposes, the added exposure to advertisements via the PIM service will be the most noticeable new feature for the bulk of NYC's taxi users. It's why NYTWA spokesman Bill Lindauer told the media, "There are two issues. One is moral and constitutional, the other is financial". (Source:

And, no one in that cab is seeing the benefits. It's why there may be few taxis on the road come September 5, if the GPS mandate remains in place.

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