Cellular telephones, which have already transformed ferry boats, rental cars and public buses into moving telephone booths, linked up with taxicabs on Monday when Yellow Cab Co. of San Diego plugged the seemingly ubiquitous devices into five of its taxis.
Yellow Cab of San Diego is the first California cab company to install cellular telephones, according to a California Public Utilities Commisison spokesman. Although the PUC does not regulate Yellow Cab's cellular telephone rates, regulations require that the commission be informed of proposed rate structures, the spokesman said.
Taxi passengers will be charged 90 cents a minute for calls, said Yellow Cab Marketing Director Anthony Palmeri, who added that the telephones feature a read-out device that allows riders to track time spent on the telephone. Palmeri said credit cards must be used for long-distance calls.
Consumers with their own cellular units will pay a $35 monthly access charge and a peak per-minute charge of 40 cents, according to a spokeswoman for PacTel Mobile Access, which operates San Diego's cellular telephone network.
"We see this as a potential moneymaker," Palmeri said. "If it works out during a three-month trial period, we'll install (telephones) on 30 to 50 of our cars."
The phones, which are manufactured in Japan, were lent to Yellow Cab by Celluland, a La Jolla-based retailer of cellular mobile telephones, Palmeri said. They are installed in the front of the cab, between the driver and passenger seats.
Cab-originated calls are carried on the cellular telephone network that was opened last month by PacTel Mobile Access, a Costa Mesa-based Pacific Telesis subsidiary. The network, which currently covers half of San Diego's metropolitan area and adjacent coastal waters, will be expanded to the rest of the county by mid-1986, according to a PacTel Mobile Access spokeswoman.
"We expect our cellular-equipped cabs to be quite popular with business people who need to make calls while traveling around San Diego," Palmeri said. He added that Yellow Cab of San Diego receives 5,000 daily phone-in requests for cabs.
Business people have been the heaviest users of the 50 cellular telephones that Hertz installed in its rental cars based at Los Angeles International Airport, according to Don Feehan, vice president of marketing for Hertz. "I think the average use is about 35 minutes a day," he said.
Hertz is offering the telephones as a customer service, Feehan said. "As long as we don't lose money, it's an interesting feature," he said. "I think in the long run, though, that they should (help Hertz's) profitability."
Recently installed cellular telephones on Puget Sound ferry boats and Seattle buses have reportedly received enthusiastic response from inquisitive passengers who lined up to use them.