Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO), along with specialty financing company Medallion Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: TAXI), sent New York’s first Internet-enabled taxicabs into the streets of the city Thursday.
The six month pilot program launched with 10 yellow and purple Yahoo! Internet taxicabs, each equipped with Palm, Inc.’s Palm VII handheld computer. Internet access from the Palm.Net service, mounted in the back of the cabs, will allow the taxi passengers to surf the Web for free.
Speaking from a cab driving down Lexington Avenue during an interview with the E-Commerce Times, Linda Bennett, a spokesperson for Yahoo!, said that “riders will be able to check the news, weather forecasts, find movie times, get online directions and surf the Web” while traveling to their destinations.
All of the cabdrivers driving the cabs are “Yahoo-trained,” according to Bennett.
Pilot Program in San Francisco
Bennett said the program follows an experiment conducted last year in San Francisco, which featured laptops, rather than the Palm VII, in the backseat. Whether Yahoo! will bring the program to other U.S. cities remains to be seen.
“We continue to build on our successes, and learning from each project we take on,” Bennett said.
In a statement, Yahoo! said that the launch demonstrates its “commitment to distribute Yahoo! services though a range of traditional and non-traditional devices.”
Earlier this summer, Yahoo! presented “Moo Mail” to tourists at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. As part of the city’s “Cow Parade,” in which cow sculptures are ensconced in various locations throughout New York, Yahoo! made available Internet access in a cow sculpture and invited people to check their e-mail through the device.
Mutual Advertising Deal
The deal represents the first approval of special taxi advertising by the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission, which permitted branded advertising on the doors and rear bumpers of the taxis, said Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion. As part of the Yahoo!-Medallion deal, Business Lenders, Medallion Financial’s business-to-business Internet lending division, will advertise on relevant areas of the Yahoo! network. The unique taxis are owned by Team Systems Corporation. There are 12,187 yellow medallion taxicabs in New York City. In 1999, approximately 241 million people rode in New York City yellow medallion taxicabs. On an average day, drivers serve 30 fares and travel 141 miles.