Atop most New York City taxis are advertising screens—flashing LEDs hawking Lion King tickets and beer and McDonald’s. Along with the vehicles’ yellow hue, the rooftop ads once set traditional cabs apart from the Ubers and Lyfts with whom they share city streets. Rather than waste all that monetizable airspace, though, a venture-backed startup called Firefly started installing portable advertising billboards on the roofs of ride-hailing vehicles in five major cities across the country.
Last week, Firefly announced that its mini-billboards will start offering an even more valuable commodity: data. The company’s new higher-resolution screens can sense temperature and quantify pollution and track the acceleration and braking patterns of their drivers.