A View from David Zax
Taxis of Tomorrow, Flying Cars
All in a day’s work at the New York Auto Show
Innovations in taxis are few and far between. Moto-Meter, a portable taxi meter originally intended for moto-taxis, is a rare example. But the taxi itself–that iconic yellow car–rarely undergoes great changes.
That’s changing in New York City, where a prototype of what the city is calling “the Taxi of Tomorrow” was recently on display at the New York International Auto Show. It was the 2014 Nissan NV200 Taxi’s global debut; Nissan’s president and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were in attendance.
“The exclusive Taxi of Tomorrow draws on Nissan’s global experience in commercial vehicles, as well as insight from New York City taxi drivers and passengers, who helped identify important improvements over today’s cabs. The Nissan taxi will deliver unprecedented levels of innovation and comfort to New York’s 600,000 daily taxi riders,” Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn said.
Nissan calls the taxi “designed from the inside out, using input from New York taxi drivers, medallion holders, fleets and passengers.” Many of the innovations are small and incremental: greater room for luggage, a transparent roof panel (to enjoy those skyline views), and mobile charging stations for passengers, complete with USB ports. There’s a “low-annoyance horn” (an oxymoron?) linked to exterior lights that reveal when the horn is honking, a navigation system involving a rearview backup monitor, and an intercom system for driver and passenger. Sliding doors are now standard, a boon for city cyclists who are tired of getting doored by taxis parked next to bike lanes.
Mayor Bloomberg begins touting the new features around the five-minute mark here.
Some have expressed a few disappointments with the cars. A lack of handicap accessibility was one complaint, but Nissan and Bloomberg have said that the cabs can be retrofitted for handicap access. (It’s an imperfect solution, leading Gothamist to call the cabs “handicap-handicapped.”) And while the taxis are fuel-efficient, they could be greener. NYPD Blue’s going green; what’s taking so long for our yellows to do the same? (A small pilot program is testing out Nissan Leafs in the fleet.)
The taxis will be manufactured in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and will cost NYC just a smidgeon under 30 grand apiece. If the glimpses in the first video of the “Taxi of Tomorrow” aren’t enough, Inhabitat has put together a nice series of photos of the car posing by various city landmarks, something like that garden gnome in “Amelie.”
The taxi of tomorrow wasn’t the only cool thing touted at the New York International Auto Show, which has become a standard event for car geeks. Also spotted was this goofy flying car. These, I suppose, are the taxis of the day after tomorrow.