New York's Yellow Taxis Score New Apps to Help Fight Uber, Lyft

Curb and Via now let riders hail New York City taxis.

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Functionally, an Uber or Lyft ride-share vehicle isn't that different from a taxi. You hail it when you need it, take it to a destination of your choice, and pay the driver when you're done. But traditional taxis lack the streamlined interface and convenience of a car hailed from a smartphone app.

Verifone saw that as an opportunity. The company is launching a service that lets riders hail New York yellow cabs through its ride-sharing apps, Curb and Via. Curb already allows passengers to pay for cab rides digitally by entering a code into the backseat screens of their taxis, but Verifone's new platform aims to compete more directly with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Verifone bought Curb in October 2013, and the app is currently compatible with two thirds of New York's taxis, according to TechCrunch. Via has been around since September 2013, and is primarily aimed at multi-passenger rides. The option to share a ride now extends to taxis, potentially saving users up to 40 percent on cab fare, according to Verifone. It also turns taxis into competitors for UberPool and Lyft Line.

By having one app (Curb) focusing on single-passenger rides and the other (Via) focusing on pooled rides, Verifone is splitting up the functions that Uber and Lyft combine into one app. That's in keeping with Verifone's stated goal of acting as an app store for ride-sharing services, rather than a service provider. While users can switch back and forth between the apps, they may still prefer the more streamlined approach of Uber and Lyft.

Linking apps to taxi services may prove to be an asset. While old-school taxis are often viewed as an outdated service, and the public has shown little patience for taxi drivers' protests against perceived unfair competition from Uber and Lyft, the shoe is now on the other foot. Uber is stuck in a never-ending cycle of scandals, with its methods for setting fares and paying drivers proving particularly controversial. New York Lyft drivers are now accusing the company of underpaying them as well.

For better or worse, taxis are a known quantity. Unlike standalone ride-sharing services, they're subject to strict regulations. That seemed like a disadvantage at first, but that perception may change as the public gets better acquainted with some of the less-appealing aspects of ride-sharing companies.