Taxi cab riders in S.F. to get smart 'passenger' in back
- Verne Kopytoff, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005

San Francisco taxicab passengers are about to get a new, know-it-all seatmate for their trips around town.

Starting next week, the first of 200 taxis will hit the road with computer screens offering riders news and listings for restaurants, bars, movie theaters and museums.

The touch-screen terminals are intended to be a convenience. Use is free of charge.

"You can be in the back of a cab and say, 'Hey, where can we go to inner?' '' said John Lazar, president of Luxor Cabs, one of two local cab companies that will have screens installed in its taxis. The other is Yellow Cab.

News on the terminals is continually updated via cellular data feeds. The articles are provided by several sources including CNN, Entertainment Tonight and SFGate.com, the online arm of The Chronicle.

Full Internet access isn't available.

Digital taxis aren't a new idea. For example, San Francisco had 10 in 2000 as part of an advertising campaign by Yahoo. But after the dot-com bubble burst, dot-com marketing budgets dried up and the screens were removed.

The comeback is being financed by Interactive Taxi, a New York company that offers a similar service in Chicago and Boston. It pays the cab companies to place the $3,000 terminals in their cabs.

Interactive Taxi hopes to profit by selling ads on the terminals. Corey Gottlieb, the company's chief executive, said that he expects all 200 specially equipped San Francisco taxis to be in service within a month.

E-mail Verne Kopytoff at vkopytoff@sfchronicle.com.

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