Cabs keep passengers connected

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NEW YORK -- The next time you hail a cab in the city, you may end up riding the information superhighway.

Ten Internet-equipped taxis hit the streets of the Big Apple last month, allowing visitors and residents a chance to surf the Web while they get to where they're going -- or sit in gridlock traffic.

The fleet of purple-and-yellow, wired taxis are a joint effort between Yahoo! and Medallion Financial Corp., a firm that places advertising on taxis.

The taxis will be on the streets through March.

The purple-upholstered cabs are equipped with Palm Pilots secured to the back seats. The wireless Palm Pilots connect to a cellular modem on the dashboard.

There is no mouse. Instead, riders use a stylus -- a plastic, pen-shaped device.

Via Yahoo!, riders can send and access e-mail, scan the latest headlines, keep an eye on stocks and check movie timetables.

There is no extra charge for passengers to ride the wired cabs or log onto the Internet.

Although it won't be easy hailing a wired cab (there are 12,187 yellow Medallion taxicabs in the city), you sure can't miss them: the 10 colorful cabs are plastered with the Yahoo! logo.

Riders who never have used Palm Pilots can get help from their cabbies, who have been trained to offer tech support and carry extra batteries.

The Internet-ready taxis were first rolled out in San Francisco in September 1999 and were on the road through March.

"The response [in San Francisco] was tremendous," said Linda Bennett, a brand marketing executive with Yahoo!. "We decided to roll out the program in New York because it is a top destination for people on the go, and now the Web can go with them," she said.

If all goes according to plan, Yahoo! plans to expand the project to Dallas, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Washington.

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