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Tuesday, March 06, 2012, 06:49 pm PT (09:49 pm ET)

iPad, iPhone at heart of Square's NYC taxi payment system

In a bid to change the way people pay for cab rides, Square has rolled out a pilot program in New York City that leverages iPads and iPhones running specialized software as backseat payment stations.

Payment company Square announced on Tuesday that it has started an initiative, internally called "Checker," that will replace the existing backseat TVs of 30 NYC taxis with custom iPad pay stations, reports The New York Times.

Square claims that its new platform will streamline fare payment by allowing customers to swipe credit cards directly on the installed device at any time during a taxi ride instead of having to wait for a meter reading.

“The ability to pay at any point in the taxi ride is really important because it enables drivers to pick up more fares, faster,” Square's director of product Megan Quinn said.

The system also eliminates the need for paper as riders sign the iPad's screen with their finger after paying and receive a receipt via email or text message.

The platform's black metal housing incorporates a magnetic stripe card reader with an iPad running Square's proprietary software. Instead of the TV programming currently broadcast in New York's cabs, the Checker unit will display information regarding a cab's current location, route and fare.

In addition to the iPad-based unit, taxi drivers will be given an iPhone that can be used to adjust fares, add toll fees and maintain contact with dispatch.

Square taxi

Square looks to change taxi payments with NYC initiative. | Source: NYT


Square is known for its unique point-of-sale solution that allows users to process credit card payments from their iOS device in exchange for a percentage sales. Quinn points out that taxi drivers are among the service's most loyal customers, though strict New York regulations rendered the service useless.

“The traditional Square set-up wasn’t possible [in New York],” Quinn said. “So we started working closely with the New York City Taxi Commission” to improve the experience.

The pilot system promises to get fares in the bank accounts of taxi drivers by the next day, which is a vast improvement over the current system that reportedly takes up to 30 days to pay out credit card fares.