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Passengers in some Atlanta taxis will soon be able to pay for a ride by swiping their credit cards from the back seat.
Installation of the multimedia payment systems already in use in a number of cities began last week in Atlanta Checker Cab vehicles. All of the company's roughly 200 vehicles should be outfitted within about 60 days, company president Rick Hewatt said.
Being able to pay by credit card isn't new, but the machines allow passengers to pay without handing over a card to the driver, increasing security for both, Hewatt said. They will also allow passengers to view entertainment, news and advertising during the ride.
Acceptance of the machines runs at about 60 percent now, said Bud Waller, executive vice president of VeriFone, the company that makes the machines Atlanta Checker Cab is using.
That wasn't always the case. Similar machines caused a controversy in New York in 2007, when cabbies called a walkout to protest new rules requiring them to install equipment that would let passengers watch TV, pay with credit cards and track their location using a global-positioning system. The drivers said the technology was a costly invasion of their privacy and worked erratically.
But the machines are now in wide use in New York and other cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., according to VeriFone, one of the major providers of the technology.
"People don't want to carry cash anymore," Waller said.
Atlanta Checker Cab, which represents about 12.5 percent of Atlanta's cabs, is the first taxi company in the city to install the machines, Waller said, but he expects other companies will follow suit. Hewatt said he's already gotten calls from other companies asking about it.