Against all odds, the Nissan NV-200 will rule the streets of New York. As of today, the vast majority of cab drivers must buy the so-called Taxi of Tomorrow when they retire their old yellow cabs.
Anybody who's ever taken a cab in the city will agree that new cars are a good thing. This one's different though.
The boxy Nissan cab isn't the prettiest of vehicles, but it is very practical. Passengers enjoy extra legroom, USB charging ports, and a big sunroof for skyscraper-peeping. Drivers get a more comfortable seat, built in GPS navigation and an intercom. Then there are some welcome safety tweaks like sliding doors and rear seat airbags. The Nissan NV-200 is also notably completely gas-powered. (See the graphic at the bottom of this post for a full list of features.)
Not everybody likes the idea of a single unifying taxicab, regardless of the bells and whistles. The Taxi of Tomorrow saga started in 2011, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a splash by holding a design competition for a new universal yellow cab. The Nissan NV-200, an awkward-looking minivan of a thing with a lengthy list of special features for city driving, won the honour, but the city's taxi groups fiercely opposed the idea that government bureaucrats could force them to drive a specific car. The case went back and forth in the courts until finally the State Court of Appeals ruled in July that the city could did in fact have the power to do just that.
So, starting September 1, New York City taxi drivers must upgrade to the Taxi of Tomorrow when their old cars die. Exceptions will be made, however, if the driver wants to invest in one of a select few hybrid or handicap-accessible vehicles. This concession acknowledges the fact that the city decided to make an all-gas, non-handicap-accessible vehicle the standard taxi. Nissan is apparently working on an all electric version of the NV-200, and the automaker already offers a handicap-accessible version, though it's not very popular.
The subtext for all of this, of course, is the NYC Taxi Commission's losing battle to Uber. The wildly popular (and rather exploitative) on-demand car service has been stealing both passengers and cab drivers from the city for years now, sending the cost of taxi medallions down and reminding people that technology is a good thing. Only in the last week has the taxi industry fired back with an official Uber-like app of its own and a promise to improve passengers' experience with cabs. Now, the city's cabbies officially have a new car and a new app, and surely, this will help them avoid becoming obsolete in the face of Silicon Valley disruption.
It remains to be seen whether this plan will work. Either way, yellow cabs are getting better for drivers and passengers, and that's a good thing.
Pictures: NYC.gov / Nissan