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New taxi designs more functional, comfortable

In New York City, the ubiquitous Crown Victoria taxi is on the way out and new, high-tech vehicles are taking its place.
December 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
For decades, the most common taxi on the streets of New York City was the Ford Crown Victoria. Thousands of them have prowled Gotham, most with crazy-high mileage on the odometers.

But Ford pulled the plug on the Crown Vic a couple of years ago, and the taxi industry needed a successor. Enter the new Nissan taxi, based on their compact NV200 van.

"We have a roomier, more usable, more functional cab than ever before," said Nissan spokesman Steve Yaeger.

It's not just a small van with some seats and a meter shoved into it. It is a dedicated taxi. In fact, at one point, Nissan had secured exclusivity in New York, but lawsuits and court rulings ensued, so now this taxi is "a" choice for cabbies, not just "the" choice.

There's a lot for passengers to like about the taxi, including leg room. I'm 6-foot-6, and I can totally stretch out.

Rear vents with temperature control will keep you cool or warm, depending on the season. And if you need to charge your phone, there's a 12-volt receptacle and even USB ports.

The sliding doors lessen the chance of injury to passengers and passing cyclists, and stepping into the vehicle is easy.

The seats are covered in a special anti-bacterial material.

But Nissan's not the only car company going after the taxi market. Ford didn't want to lose business with the departure of their Crown Victoria, so they've come up with their own futuristic cab based on the Transit Connect van.

One of the long-term goals of some taxi regulators is to explore other power options. The shape of these vans makes them candidates for alternative power.

"In Europe, we already have an e-NV, an electric version of it. And yeah, it's a very malleable platform. It has a flat floor, very easy to reconfigure," said Yaeger.

That could play well in Southern California, where Toyota's Prius is seeing more and more use in taxi service. If the Nissan taxi does well in the Big Apple, we could see it here too.

"Right now we're focused on New York. Obviously that's the big item. But as they become successful and customers like them, who knows?" said Yaeger.

In the meantime, don't be surprised if the next cab you hail in New York looks more like a little bus than a car.


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