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Uber changes lanes in New York by hailing cabs too

Private car-summoning service will begin allowing New Yorkers to call for cab rides, which will be free for the first week while a regulatory hurdle is cleared.

Taxi customers will soon be able to use Uber to hail a cab in much the same way it's used to summon a private car.
Declan McCullagh/CNET

Private car service Uber is veering off its usual course by offering its service to taxi drivers in New York City.

Starting tomorrow, Uber Taxi will allow New Yorkers to use the smartphone app to hail a cab in much the same way it's been used to summon private cars in cities around the country.

"This is the first time in three decades that New Yorkers can get a taxi without going to the street," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told CNET. He also touted the service as offering greater accessibility in neighborhoods where taxis don't normally travel.

However, during a meeting today with Uber, representatives of New York's Taxi & Limousine Commission brought up a regulatory issue that would prevent Uber from processing credit cards to pay for the rides. So to comply with TLC regulations, Uber is also launching Taxi Free Week, during which it will make its new cab service free for the first week for all rides up to $25.

"We believe the TLC wants to resolve this and give NYC consumers the innovation and opportunity that New Yorkers deserve," the company said in a statement. "Uber will do everything possible to reach a resolution with the TLC between now and [the end of the first week] so that New Yorkers and the TLC can get a taste of the future and embrace it."

Founded last year in San Francisco, the company arranges transport in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, and Paris. But the ride has not always been smooth for the fast-growing startup.

Last month, Uber Boston received a cease-and-desist letter from the Division of Standards of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, ordering it to stop operating in Boston because the National Institute of Standards and Technology hasn't yet issued guidelines for use of GPS location technology in commercial transportation. The service got the green light to resume operations a few days later when Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick threw his support behind it.

Uber also clashed with the D.C. Taxicab Commission over proposed legislation that would have required sedan car services like Uber to charge at least five times the minimum fare charged by cabs. That was struck from the legislation before a final vote.