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New York City's Taxi-of-Tomorrow becomes Taxi-Designed-by-Committee

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November 1, 2011

The Nissan NV200 which won the tender for the Taxi of Tomorrow

The Nissan NV200 which won the tender for the Taxi of Tomorrow

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Four years ago, New York City officials convened a group of taxi drivers, owners and passengers, to create a set of goals for the next New York City taxi cab, a project called the Taxi of Tomorrow.

A collaboration between the Design Trust for Public Space and the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, the Taxi of Tomorrow initiative was claimed to be a complete re-imagining of the entire taxi system.

In December 2009, auto makers and designers were invited and designers to submit their ideas for a purpose-built vehicle to serve as a New York City taxicab. At the end of the evaluation process in May, 2011, the Nissan NV200 was selected from three finalists (Ford and Turkish manufacturer Karsan were the other finalists) as the New York City taxicab for ten years, beginning in 2013.

The Nissan "Taxi of Tomorrow" Design Expo opens to the public today (November 1) for five days to enable New York's 600,000 daily taxi passengers to see what they're going to be driven in.

The key features of the NV200 Taxi design which won the day are from what you'd expect of a vehicle being wildly trumpeted as the Taxi-of-Tomorrow.

Inside the Nissan NV200 which won the tender for the Taxi of Tomorrow

There's enough cargo area to accommodate luggage for four passengers (something the average sedan does not), a transparent roof panel for site-seeing, sliding doors with entry step and grab handles for easy entry and exit, USB charging points for passenger electronics, passenger controlled rear-seat climate control, a flat floor (no drive-train hump), and improved interior materials for fresher smell and easier cleaning. That's it. No electric drive-train, not even a Wi-Fi hotspot.

How did it take so long to come up with such an ordinary result? Four whole years!

Inside the Nissan NV200 which won the tender for the Taxi of Tomorrow

The selection process appears to have been a very difficult and political one, as the Ford and Karsan entries looked particularly compelling. Indeed, the lack of transparency involved in the process and the questionable result are the type of process which makes it understandable why American business and government are perceived as less-than-honest by the global community.

Now before you take exception to the above remark, check out the Transparency International Global Perceptions Index. Coming in 22nd place from 184 countries might sound like a reasonable result, but with a score of 7.1 (out of ten) for its transparency (honesty), America ranks behind Barbados, Qatar and Chile, and only marginally ahead of Uruguay, Estonia, Slovenia, Botswana and Puerto Rico.

All three finalists in the Taxi of Tomorrow were based on vans instead of the traditional sedan design which might be suitable as an average family car, but has long prevented taxis from being nearly as useful as they could be for a public that wants to get groups of people and their stuff from point A to Point B most effectively.

New York City's Taxi-of-Tomorrow becomes Taxi-Designed-by-Committee

The Karsan design was supposedly passed over based on doubts as to whether Karsan could "execute the project". This is clearly a great shame, as the Karsan design appears at least in my opinion, to be superior to the NV200 design which is pretty much the same basic van you see anywhere in the world, with a few minor revisions.

The Karsan design also offered wheelchair and pram access, and would have been built in New York, both considerations that would have given it a significant advantage over the Ford (to be built in Turkey had it won) and the Nissan which will be built in Cuernavaca and Aguascalientes in Mexico. The Nissan does not offer wheelchair access. Indeed, given that America is a country with a large number of combat veterans and other wheelchair users, the decision to dispense with wheelchair access in the Taxi of Tomorrow is beyond comprehension.

The Karsan design had wheelchair access - the winning Nissan design does not.

The decision drew a law suit from the United Spinal Association for choosing an inaccessible "taxi of tomorrow" and it appears that if the city does not mandate a wheelchair accessible taxi it will be in violation of the Americans With Disabilites Act. The lack of transparency has been compounded by some very unfortunate remarks by New York Mayor Bloomberg demonstrating his ignorance of the plight of those without full use of their limbs.

If the decision to include wheelchair access in the taxi of tomorrow is not reversed, New York's disabled will continue to have to contend with just 231 of the city's 13,000 taxis being accessible to wheelchair users. It should be noted that London's taxis are ALL wheelchair accessible. Any thoughts that we now live in a civilized society are obviously premature.

Ford's Transit Connect already exists EV form

The Taxi of Tomorrow will be powered by a 2.0 liter internal combustion engine. Although a fully electric version of the Nissan NV2000 is expected to be available by 2017, Ford's Transit Connect is available in fully electric form NOW and it also offers mobile hotspot capabilities. Surely such facility would have truly lived up to the grandiose title of the Taxi of Tomorrow. As things stand, Nissan will sponsor a pilot program with six Nissan Leaf electric cars and charging stations in 2012, that will be deployed to study the use of zero-emission electric vehicles as taxis. The Leafs will be evaluated in the year prior to the NV200s taxi introduction.

This is of course, a complete "crock" - Nissan has been evaluating the capabilities of electric cars in Japan for many years. It already knows that a Nissan LEAF will run for about half of the 150 miles a cab covers in an average shift. What are they attempting to prove by trialling an inappropriate vehicle design with an electric drive-train?

There is an enormous irony in all this.

New York City's Taxi-of-Tomorrow becomes Taxi-Designed-by-Committee

More than a century ago, New York had a fleet of more than 1000 electric taxis. Sure there were problems, but nothing some good ol' human ingenuity couldn't fix. This article from the Atlantic nicely covers the all-electric transport system that almost was.

New York City's Taxi-of-Tomorrow becomes Taxi-Designed-by-Committee

Indeed, the more I look at what has been achieved, the more I think the Taxi of Tomorrow should be called the Taxi Designed By Committee. If there was indeed any intention to reimagine the taxi system, why wasn't electricity considered as the motive force. Nissan and its French connection with Renault make it a global leader in EV technology. Bloomberg tells the world he's an advocate of EVs in general and EV taxis in particular, yet all we have to show for all that time and all that effort are a few extra grab handles and a panoramic roof.

As the Taxi of Tomorrow stands, it will be a slightly modified compact commercial vehicle almost identical to those currently available in Japan, Europe and China. A bunch of primary school children could have arrived at a better result than this inside ten minutes.

The Nissan 'Taxi of Tomorrow' Design Expo is located on the pedestrian plaza across from the Flatiron building at Broadway and Fifth Avenue, and will be open to the public on Tuesday, Nov. 1, noon-9 p.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 2 through Friday, Nov. 4, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; and, Saturday, Nov. 5, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
13 Comments

Most of the public preferred the Karsan. Unfortunately, most people aren't politically connected.

Gadgeteer
1st November, 2011 @ 03:31 pm PDT

With the exception of the wheelchair accessibility and maybe the WiFi it looks like a good cab.

EVs and electric hybrids are vastly overpriced junk. although a flywheel, hydraulic, or pneumatic hybrid system would be good.

Slowburn
1st November, 2011 @ 03:43 pm PDT

Every decision in new york city since it was founded has involved payoffs, schemes, and fatcat politicians. I was astounded when the Karsan prototype was ignored, maybe cities like Orlando, Las Vegas, and LA will see the light and begin using either the ford or the karsan, sure the numbers needed would be less but multi city fleets would more than make up the numbers for either automaker to flourish.

During the competition i just couldn't see the benefit of the Nissan over the two better alternatives.

As for ADA compliance (laws that meet the needs for the disabled) I would like seeing a new federal requirement for half of every taxi fleet meeting wheelchair needs. The disabled are certainly entitled to public transportation, but one of every two taxis would seem sufficient to me.

John Hemingway Parkes
1st November, 2011 @ 04:56 pm PDT

That none but the Karsan would be built in this country should have been enough. It's a shame that Ford wouldn't want to create a few jobs here in the USA. My vote was for Karsan.

John Hemingway Parkes
1st November, 2011 @ 04:59 pm PDT

I admit ignorance of the whole project - the lack of wheel chair access is bullshit etc.

BUT for what it is, I actually really like it.

ROOMY - tons of storage space - HIGH ceiling, LOTS of leg room.... BIG doorways...

It's NO GOOD without wheel chair access - not at all - and it tells you what a scheming pack of incompetent bastards the $ecret $election committee are.....

But for a personal car - I actually really like it - because being tall - I hate cramped vehicles.

Mr Stiffy
1st November, 2011 @ 08:28 pm PDT

The average NYC taxi ride is 2.5 miles.... reason enough for cruise control. Brillant!

Mark A
1st November, 2011 @ 09:13 pm PDT

I don't understand why in the biggest cityes of the world are not introduced only electric vehicles for taxi. The favor to disabilities persons matters a lot, but they can introduce some litte cars for taxi, because there are many cases when only one person with no lugage wants to go from A to B, quicly! We'd better take example from germans with theire stupid colours for "euro" and restricted acces?

Iosif Eugen Olimpiu
2nd November, 2011 @ 08:17 am PDT

Why mandate a specific vehicle as an official taxi? Why not adopt ALL THREE and let capitalism fight it out? Heck, why not just adopt a paint pattern specification and let the CAB COMPANIES decide what they want to use?

Bryan Paschke
2nd November, 2011 @ 10:08 am PDT

Death by Committee....

Probably studied NASCAR's "Car of Tomorrow"

extensively...

When Richard Petty first proposed the Car of Tomorrow,

it was impressive and worthwhile.

What was finally built 20+ years later was not.

Only the name remained.

This is similar in that,

other than the name,

it is nothing but an off-the-shelf existing minivan with slight modifications.

There are dealerships that offer these kinds of mods as one-offs.

This could be ordered in a day and production could be started well within a month.

If this is all they offered,

they should have been delivered YESTERDAY-

about 3 years ago...

Griffin
2nd November, 2011 @ 11:29 am PDT

Meh. One more reason not to be as impressed with New York as they are with themselves. Shame they weren't thinking about accessible transportation though - ramps are nice for more than just wheelchair users, as any public transit worker can tell you. Looks like NY got caught with its pants down... again.

Charles Bosse
2nd November, 2011 @ 12:43 pm PDT

Reminds me of the old Checker Cabs in NYCity that had the liddle fold down side seats so us kiddies could sit on them (to our immense delight). I for one would like to see some of those 100 yr old Electric cabs kathumping down the streets of NYCity-- hey why not? Uh Oh -- hey DRIIIVER -- MTA bus coming up faassst behind you!!!

Azar Attura
2nd November, 2011 @ 01:15 pm PDT

re; Iosif Eugen Olimpiu

The electric entry did not have the range to meet the Average daily distance of a New York cab, and by definition about half the cabs do more than average. The battery pack will loose a significant portion of storage capability well before this very expensive componant has to be replaced in just a few years.

Or simply put.

Because electric Vehicles are vastly overpriced, and catastrophically under-performing pieces of junk.

Slowburn
2nd November, 2011 @ 06:19 pm PDT

It's the taxi of yesterday, In the UK you can get a Merc Van, fully wheelchair friendly, electric steps, the doors electric open, four wheels turn to give smaller turning circle, all mod cons, right now, today.

This nissan cant do wheelchair, cant do electric steps, dosent have electric doors, so its not even up to current spec.

If you're going to pick a van conversion, at least make it something special..

Link to the merc http://rsi-cda.mercedes-benz.com/content/unitedkingdom/retailer-E/kpm_taxis/en/home/vans/home/vito_taxi/product_info/passenger_environment.html

The karsan, was really the best, a unique shape, something that people would have recognised around the world, but now? its just a van.

fenshwey
5th November, 2011 @ 04:43 pm PDT
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