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Yo, Taxi! New Yorkers Get Their First Look at the “Taxi of Tomorrow.”

Roomier, safer, and no more fighting over the center seat.

by on Apr.04, 2012

Nissan's new Taxi of Tomorrow in Times Square.

It’s as iconic a symbol of New York as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and street vendors selling hot dogs.  But over the next several years the Big Apple’s classic yellow cab will get a decidedly different look.

No, it’ll stay as yellow as the mustard on those hot dogs, but starting in 2013 hack fleets will began phasing out the aging Crown Victoria and other recent cab models, replacing them with the so-called “Taxi of Tomorrow.”  That’s another way of saying a customized version of the Nissan NV2000.

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The Japanese maker won a three-way shoot-out last year that pitted it against Ford’s planned cab replacement, the Escape crossover, and another entry from a small firm in Turkey that proved especially popular with New York cab customers.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg climb into the new Taxi of Tomorrow.

But city officials ultimately opted for the Nissan NV200, Mayor Michael Bloomberg predicting it will be “the safest and most comfortable taxi ever to hit our streets,” during a Tuesday night news conference where a production version of the Taxi of Tomorrow was unveiled.

At first blush it appears there are plenty of reasons to like the new model, which will begin phasing in next year, though the complete replacement of current New York yellow cabs won’t be completed until 2018, according to the mayor.

Though the exterior dimensions are actually smaller than those of the “Crown Vic” – Nissan suggesting that will collectively save the city five acres of space – the interior is a bit roomier. The NV200 will feature a full 10 inches more legroom – and there’ll be no hump in the middle, which means passengers less likely to fight over who gets stuck in the center seat.

The NV200 will feature better interior lighting and offer charger ports for those with cellphones, iPads or laptop computers.  There’ll even be carbon-lined headliners and anti-bacterial floor mats which Nissan claims will help eliminate odors.  Passengers will get their own climate control system.

A glass roof will make for more fun for sightseers.

Sliding doors should make it easier – and safer to get in and out. And an all-glass roof will encourage sightseeing, a favorite New York sport.

Meanwhile, each cab will come with a GPS system that should make confusion about addresses “a thing of the past,” according to Bloomberg.

Nissan has also put the NV200 equipped with all the typically taxi equipment through extensive crash tests. Both drivers and passengers will be protected by specially-designed airbag systems.

The Taxi of Tomorrow preview did generate some protests, a small cluster of folks in wheelchairs gathering outside the event chiding Nissan for not making the NV200 handicap-accessible.  The maker countered that it will provide a rear entry with a ramp easily negotiated by wheelchairs.  But it’s unclear whether that feature will be optional or required on all of the Taxis of Tomorrow.

An NV200 yellow cab in front of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The new Nissan cabs, with their four-cylinder engines, are also expected to be more fuel-efficient than the old V-8-powered Crown Victoria taxis, no small benefit for fleets and individual owners who can log 1000s of miles a week, much of it negotiating stop-and-go city traffic.

Nissan and the city are even discussing the possibility of a future electric drivetrain, likely borrowing the technology used in the maker’s Leaf battery car.  How that would work remains to be seen considering the long charging times and relatively limited range of today’s batteries.  But, it appears, that planners are looking for ways to take the Taxi of Tomorrow even further into the future.

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