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New York Taxi Drivers Protest High Tech Requirements

In New York City, taxis are as ubiquitous as New Yorkers themselves. Morning, noon and night, New York streets are filled with a sea of yellow cabs, and the sound of their horns honking can be heard from even the tallest skyscrapers. Now it is not just the usual traffic jams that have the drivers honking their horns. Paige Kollock explains.

It is the tracking device that has New York City cab drivers upset.

So upset that some 11,000 drivers went on strike for 48 hours recently, leaving busy city dwellers trying to figure out how to get around town.

Drivers are protesting requirements to add new technology to their vehicles -- technology required by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, or TLC. The commission regulates the city's 44,000 drivers, and the TLC says this is all part of a fare increase agreed to in 2004.

That agreement calls for each taxi to have a credit card machine, a video monitor and a GPS navigation tracking system. The GPS is the most controversial piece of the technology, but the taxi commission says it will improve the experience of the passenger and allow for a quicker, safer, more informative ride.

Driver Shazad Munir thinks the technology is hard to use, and he sees it as an invasion of his privacy. "You are always living in fear of what's going to happen next and you are not independent no more because the TLC is looking over your every right and left. There is no freedom, no independence."

Independence is the very reason many of the drivers chose this line of work. Drivers do not want their bosses tracking their every move, especially during their off hours, when some of them drive the taxis home.

And drivers say the new technology will be expensive. Bhavrani Desai of the Taxi Workers Alliance. "We want to be paid properly for the amount of new technology, repairing it, operating it, having to pull over when the monitor is not working."

As for passengers, some say the monitors are annoying. Others, like a tourist from the United Kingdom, like them. She said, "It helps you get around, you can see things more clearly, like where you are going to."

Despite the recent cab strike, so far the TLC has made no move to scale back the requirements. The technology already is installed in about 1500 of New York's 13,000 cabs. And according to the TLC, the rest of them must have it by January.