New York City's yellow taxis are entering the carpool lane.
Following the lead of startups Uber and Lyft, the taxi industry is set introduce by the end of 2016 a ride-sharing feature for half its fleet on two smartphone apps, The Verge reports.
Customers looking for a cheaper fare will be able to book a shared ride with the Arro and Bandwagon apps, the former created by the company that manages the payment systems and video screens in roughly half of the city's yellow and green cabs, Creative Mobile Technologies, and the latter by a Brooklyn-based startup, Bandwagon, that piloted its taxi-sharing service at LaGuardia airport last year.
The two companies announced earlier this week they will join forces to integrate Bandwagon's technology into the Arro app, which debuted last August as a way of summoning and paying for cabs.
They will compete with UberPool and Lyft Line, which are marketed as more economical and environmentally friendly alternatives to solo Uber and Lyft rides. So far, the apps' carpooling services appear to have limited popularity among customers, who routinely give rides they share with strangers negative reviews.
This may be the first time that taxi drivers across the city will pick up more than one set of passengers, but it's not the first time the industry considered the idea. In 2002, under the shadow of a potential transit strike, local officials proposed a plan that would create specific zones for cabs to pick up New Yorkers interested in carpooling. It wasn't until 2009 that the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission launched a program equipping a small number of yellow cabs with meters capable of tracking two or more fares.
The "unusual social experiment for New Yorkers used to treating their cab as their castle," as the New York Times described it, never really took hold.