VeriFone’s Way2ride app offers tap-to-pay functionality without the need for NFC

Paying for cabs in New York City has come a long way. When I first moved here ten years ago, it was a cash-only affair. Now, thankfully, every taxi comes equipped with a credit card machine, which means no more fumbling around to find singles in your wallet after a long night out. Starting Thursday, taxi payments in New York have gone mobile with VeriFone’s new tap-to-pay Way2ride app.
Here’s how it works. First you need to download to the app on your phone (it is currently available for both Android(s goog) and iOS(s aapl) devices). Fire up the app when you get into a cab, and tap the onscreen button that says “I’m in a taxi.” Now here’s where to cool part comes in. You see, Way2ride allows you to make automatic mobile payments without the use of NFC.
Hold your phone up to the TaxiTV screen, which is installed in the back cab. The app uses ultrasound technology from Zoosh to exchange encrypted data between your smartphone and the TaxiTV through your phone’s microphone and speaker. You phone will beep or vibrate once you’ve successfully checked into the ride and your preferences will be displayed on the TaxiTV screen to verify your check-in.

Way2ride screenshot

The app allows you to preload your credit card information and store tip preferences, so once you reach your destination, all you have to do is check the TaxiTV to make sure your payment has gone through. You can also disable auto-pay if you want to change how you pay for the ride each time. Receipts are stored in the app, so you don’t even have to wait for one to print out.
Right now you can use Way2ride in any VeriFone-equipped cab (which currently account for over 7,000 of New York’s 13,000+ licensed yellow taxis). VeriFone hopes to add taxi-hailing capabilities to the app at some point in the future, which would really make entire taxi experience completely mobile. After the pilot program in New York, VeriFone plans to add Way2ride functionality to its 70,000 payment-enabled taxis around the world.
I’ve already downloaded the app and plan to put it to the test this weekend. My only concern is how familiar a cab driver has to be with this new payment system in order to know that a payment has indeed been processed and I’m not skipping out on my fare.
This post was updated at 7:47am to show that Way2ride only works in taxis with VeriFone systems.