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The Advantages of Going Cashless

Life could be a lot safer for taxi drivers and others if they accepted cashless payments.
Posted By Mark Roberti, 04.16.2007
I was tooling along the Long Island Expressway the other day, listening to WNYC, a public broadcasting station in the Big Apple. They did a piece on the taxi of the future, which was on display at the auto show being held at the Jacob Javitz Center.

The interviewees were talking about getting rid of the partition that separates the driver and the passengers. The partition was put in to protect drivers from being held up—a fairly common problem in the 1970s and 1980s.

Leonard Lopate, the host of the show, asked how they would protect the driver if they got rid of the partition. One guest said the best way would be to go to contactless payments—that is, smart cards with an embedded radio frequency transponder. (See A Makeover for NYC Yellow Cabs.)

Such a system could have a small reader embedded in the back of the front seat. A patron could hold up a credit card or debit card near the reader, pay the bill and collect a receipt. This would be better than swiping a credit card, because the transaction would be fast and easy, letting both driver and passenger get on their way.

The concept, if it catches on, could also be applied to convenience stores and other cash businesses that typically have low-value transactions and are often robbed. I had never thought about it before, but getting rid of the cash in these transactions would reduce crime.

Of course, you can’t eliminate cash altogether, but in places like Hong Kong, where the Octopus card is accepted not just for mass transit tickets but also at convenience stores, the technology has caught on. Over time, the vast majority of purchases there could become cashless.

I know some people might have concerns about privacy, as an electronic transaction could leave a record of who bought what, when and where. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You could buy an RFID card preloaded with $100, and each time you rode a cab or bought a paper at the convenience store, the cash would be deducted from your card. Seems like a nice solution, if you ask me.

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