At the beginning of the year, the Bloomberg administration pitched the ambitious and dreamily titled idea of the Taxi Cab of Tomorrow, tomorrow being 2014 (maybe then we should call it the Taxi Cab of Today, or the Incomplete Transportation Fiasco?). The city reached out to automakers for submissions, and now Ford, Nissan, and General Motors, among others, have submitted plans for our amped-up future rides.
You know when you’re standing on the corner of a busy street, late for whatever, guessing which version of the yellow cab will come to your rescue as they whiz by? Will it be the roomy minivan that has the potential to be Cash Cab, the SUV that’s situated for optimal people watching, or the standard, boring sedan? If all goes as planned, the Taxi Cab of Tomorrow plan means that the guessing game will only have one answer, and it might even have swivel chairs, according to Crain’s New York Business.
The new cab must make it easy for “reduced-mobility” riders to get into it from the curb, which means 90-degree pivoting chairs for all! Another future cab buzz phrase — natural gas. Soon, maybe we can pump these babies full of biodiesel fryer oil and zip up and down the East Side Highway like a kid who just ate a Happy Meal. A variation on the short boxy minivans popular in Europe might be in the running for 2014. Since they already exist, tweaking a current model would be cheaper and less labor-intensive than designing a custom vehicle.
“We want people to be able to look at this cab and in a glance say, “New York City,’ ” a Bloomberg aide told the audience at a meeting about the new cabs, according to a transcript sourced by Crain’s, which compiled this past, present, and future taxi slideshow.
The city wants carmakers to reimagine not only the design of the car, but the elements that make it a taxi–rooftop lights and advertising, meters, in-taxi TV screens. Carmakers are considering new ideas: Seats covered in cloth, not vinyl. Partitions that protect without severing communication. Doors that open with flashing LEDs to give bicyclists a heads-up. Doing something with that awkward shotgun seat, such as bringing back the jump seat and having it double as a spot for wheelchairs, like those flip-down seats on new subway trains. Using GPS technology to advertise based on the car’s location in the city.
Cool, right? But there’s a catch:
Carmakers are required to deliver these possible redesigns when they sell the car to cabbies, but in order to make these changes economical, automakers are not required to build or assemble the car’s parts in the city, as is the custom today. That has angered small businesses that depend on this kind of work.
“This could hurt a lot of small businesses in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn,” says a lawyer representing one of the city’s two providers of TV screens in taxis.
To summarize: Tons of money will be pumped into cool new cars and will help New Yorkers travel in style while hurting the local economy. Two steps forward, one step back. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean cab fare hikes!