A group of cabbies sued city regulators Wednesday in an attempt to block a new requirement that all taxis be outfitted with global positioning systems and software that will record where they drive.
The move comes two weeks after thousands of cabbies went on strike for two days to protest the rule.
In the lawsuit, the drivers argue that the city overstepped its authority and acted unconstitutionally when it mandated the GPS units. Their lawsuit also makes an unusual claim that the GPS devices will give away trade secrets by disclosing the cabbies' driving patterns.
Most taxi drivers, it explained, cruise routes of their own design that they believe lead to the most lucrative fares.
"Each taxi driver regards his or her own pattern as proprietary," the lawsuit said. Tracking those patterns would cause the drivers to give up their competitive edge, it claimed.
Officials at New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission referred calls to the city's law department, which said it was reviewing the lawsuit.
The GPS units are among several pieces of new technology being phased into cabs this year, including credit card machines, a text messaging system and television screens for passengers.
Taxi drivers and fleet owners are divided over the new equipment. Some have embraced it. Others have criticized it as costly, unnecessary and an invasion of their privacy.
A faction of drivers led by the Taxi Workers Alliance struck for two days last month to call attention to the dispute. The Alliance also organized the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan.
The drivers are asking the court to block enforcement of the new technology requirements and reimburse drivers for the cost of installing any equipment already in place. It also seeks an injunction blocking the first round of enforcement of the rules.
Cabs that don't have the technology will start failing city inspections as of Oct. 1. Within the past few weeks, the city has also begun fining cab owners who haven't yet signed contracts to install the equipment. Owners have also been threatened with suspensions for failing to comply.