The New York auto show hosts introductions of important new production and concept cars each year -- but usually, it's also home to some future-thinking about the next generation of taxi cabs.
This year Ford's gone the taxi route with the new Transit Connect, the Turkish-built minivan the company will import starting next year. After its debut at the Chicago show last month, Ford put a Transit Connect into the yellow livery of a New York cab.
Ford says the Transit Connect's a good choice for cleaner air. The van's powertrain -- a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an automatic transmission -- is good for 19 miles per gallon. That's a big savings over today's taxi fleets (Ford's rear-drive, V-8 Crown Victoria is a mainstay here, but is on its way out of production) and in emissions Ford claims even bigger benefits. The TC, they say, is 90 percent cleaner than most of today's taxi fleet.
The interior of the tall-roof Transit Connect's been retrofitted for hack duty with a mix of technology and toughness -- like the floor-to-ceiling clear barrier between driver and fares. With three passengers in the second row, the Connect will still carry 75 cubic feet of stuff, and access to the seats is easier with the high seating.
As for infotainment, Ford's fitted a screen that shows the charge for the trip in real time, along with news, weather, sports scores and stock prices. A touch-screen system also allows passengers to choose music, videos, or information on area attractions--and to pay with a debit or credit card.
For the driver, Ford's included a version of its Work Solutions computer installed in the dash, with high-speed Internet and Bluetooth connectivity, along with a Garmin navigation system.
We're not sure about Ford's plans to offer this to taxi fleets, but we are sure about driving the Transit Connect later in the year. Stay tuned for more on the TC and for our wrap-up of the New York auto show.