Hop into the back seat of a cab, and you're likely to see one of those annoying mini-TV screens/credit card machines playing some banal news cast or commercial. To drown out that background noise, you stare at your smartphone and frantically check email and Facebook. Or maybe you put the phone away and strike up one of those "how's the weather"-type conversations with the cab driver. What if there was something better than either of these options?
If Square has its way, in tablets might soon replace TVs in New York City taxis. According to reports from CBS New York, Square recently met with the Taxi and Limousine Commission to discuss just that. To test things out, tablets would land in 50 cabs, replacing the current taxi TV system.
Taxi cab riders would be able to do and play whatever they want on the tablets. Think about it: Play Angry Birds, check email and Facebook, tweet about something random that the cab driver is doing, pin stuff to one of your Pinterest boards, book your next plane ticket to London, buy tickets to the movies, check your online bank statement, look at porn...the possibilities are endless. But is that a good thing?
With so much stimuli already available in an urban environment like New York City, the tablet with its endless possibilities could be overly distracting for both a passenger and the cab driver.
What if you, the cab rider, mess up the address of where you're going? And then when you arrive, you realize that you're in the wrong location? If you had been paying attention instead of busily tapping away on the in-cab tablet, you might have noticed. But technology is too alluring. We distract ourselves with the shiny glow of all-things-i, so much so that we do not know where we are going.
And then there's the whole "oops I forgot to sign-out" syndrome. Imagine jumping into the cab, only to find the previous user's email and Facebook accounts open. If you're a gentlemanlady, or a gentleman, or just a lady, you will promptly sign out off the random person's accounts. We know that ReadWriteWeb readers are proper chaps - but unfortunately, not everyone can be like us.
One way to avoid the entire "accidentally forgetting to logout" problem: Square could propose some sort of lock on the tablet, which would force the passenger to sign out of every currently running application before exiting the cab. This could even be connected with Square's payment technology, requiring passengers to sign out and pay before leaving the cab.
Additionally, the solitary experience of playing on a tablet might be a welcome alternative to the annoying noise of in-cab TVs. Manuel, a cab driver of 24 years, told 1010 WINS reporter Glenn Schuck that he really does dislike the noise of those TVs
"This thing is annoying all day long," Manuel told CBS. "I gotta listen to this thing time and time again. Nobody likes it. None of my passengers like it."
Tablets in cabs will pose new problems that both drivers and passengers will have to deal with. But for now, anything is better than the annoying drone of commercials and static.
Square is making a formal presentation to the Taxi and Limousine Commission on March 1.Discuss