Big Apple Looking for the Taxi of Tomorrow

February 20, 2008

As a one-time New Yorker, I’ve spent many a dreary moment, in a downpour, desperately waiting for a cab. But Matthew Daus isn’t just looking for any looking for just any hack. He wants the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” something cleaner, safer, more fuel efficient, and yes, even more comfortable to ride in.

The chairman of the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission, Daus has issued an RFI – a Request for Information, in bureaucratese – that could completely reshape the fleet of more than 10,000 yellow cabs that roam the streets of the Big Apple.

The goal of the project, he explains, “will culminate in the design and building of just what its title implies – the perfect automobile for use as a New York City licensed taxicab.”

Anyone who has squeezed into the back of one of a short wheelbase Crown Victoria, nose pressing against the plexiglass, will likely respond, “Amen.”

The city’s numerous cab companies, pressured by NY officials, have already been trying to find some acceptable alternatives. What was once a nearly uniform fleet of Ford sedans now features an array of vehicles, including Honda Odyssey minivans and a small, but growing number of high-mileage hybrids.

Going forward, though, the Taxi Commission, spurred on by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hopes to come up with an entirely new vehicle. The Taxi of Tomorrow, Daus says, needs to be, safer, more fuel efficient, boast lower emissions, provide more comfort for the driver, smaller, yet offer more interior room, and provide a ”superior passenger experience.”

(That latter mandate could be met, right now, by holding down fares, we’d argue, and by hiring drivers who actually speak English and maybe, just possibly, actually know their way around the City.)

Perhaps the most significant parameter in the RFI requires that the new cab feature, “Iconic design that will identify the new taxi with New York City.”

Hmm, that actually sounds like another iconic hack, the London Taxi. In fact, it meets just about every one of the mandates New York has set. So why wait? Make a few tweaks to the design and an all-new London, er, New York cab wouldn’t have to wait until tomorrow.

For a look at the complete New York Cab of Tomorrow RFI, click here.

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