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Traditional Taxis Getting a Tech Makeover

  • George Putic

FILE - Taxi driver Roland Sainristil displays the driver's ZabKab app on his smartphone, in New York, Aug. 8, 2012. The app lets a passenger send out a hailing signal to all cabs within a four- or five-block area. Now, however, cabs themselves are in for makeovers that will make for a more pleasant passenger experience.

FILE - Taxi driver Roland Sainristil displays the driver's ZabKab app on his smartphone, in New York, Aug. 8, 2012. The app lets a passenger send out a hailing signal to all cabs within a four- or five-block area. Now, however, cabs themselves are in for makeovers that will make for a more pleasant passenger experience.

When alternative transportation companies like Uber and Lyft took to the streets, they dealt a serious blow to traditional taxis by offering lower prices, app-based hails, friendlier drivers and newer vehicles.

Now, some traditional taxi companies are hoping to take back market share from the competition with a high-tech makeover, and they're getting help from Verifone Systems, one of the largest companies that process payments from credit card companies.

Realizing that outdated taxi meters and touchscreens that played boring advertisements and stale TV clips were no match for cozy late-model cars with upscale hi-fi systems, Verifone plans to replace the meters with more modern technology.

Before the year is out, companies will begin equipping tens of thousands of U.S. taxis with 25-centimeter touchscreens loaded with apps. Riders will be able to listen to streaming music and podcasts, watch videos, book reservations and charge their mobile devices. They will also enjoy free Wi-Fi connections.

Drivers will get new screens with communication and navigation apps, more accurate fare calculators and even biometric locks. For security, cabs will carry cameras and panic buttons.

The new gadgets are being tested in several U.S. cities.

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