New York’s Taxi of Tomorrow

By Kevin Miller


Taxi cabs lead a hard life in New York City. According to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission , a fleet-owned NYC taxi double shift (24 hours) operated by multiple drivers must be retired after 36 months in service, and will accumulate approximatley 400,000 miles during that time. The average speed for a NYC cab while looking for a fare is about 7 mph; this rises to 15 mph once a passenger is aboard. The average ‘paid’ trip length is 3.7 miles; the average distance between fares is 2.87 miles. The average trip carries of 1.4 passengers.

In New York City, taxicabs (also known as yellow cabs) are for-hire vehicles that are available only for street hail. In 2007, there were approximately 13,100 licensed yellow cabs in New York City. The stretched Ford Crown Victoria represents 85% (or over 12,000 vehicles) of the fleet.

Last month, New York’s mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) announced the Taxi of Tomorrow initiative, which is a program the city hopes will provide a revolutionary new type of taxi cab to serve New York’s residents and visitors. The goal of the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow Request for Information (RFI), in its own words, “is to gauge from the auto manufacturing industry the possibility of creating vehicles that incorporate and balance the different needs of a taxi operating within New York City. NYC intends to use the information gained from this RFI to inform a process that will create a blueprint and timeline for bringing new taxicab vehicles to the streets.”

The Taxi of Tomorrow project is among the latest aspects of of Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, a roadmap to improve housing, transportation, energy infrastructure and air quality in NYC. This roadmap identifies significant improvement targets for taxicab vehicle CO2 emissions: 25 mpg (revised city cycle) for new taxis beginning in 2008, and 30 mpg for new taxis beginning in 2009.

The above economy and CO2 emission targets mean that the Crown Victoria will be phased out of NYC Taxicab service over the next 3-5 years. No other automotive- or truck-based vehicle has thus far been identified to take the Crown Victoria’s place as the predominant model of the New York City taxicab fleet.

Because no vehicle has emerged that is ready to fill the Crown Victoria’s shoes while also meeting the above environmental goals, the Taxi and Limousine Commsision worked with Ricardo, Inc. of Van Buren Township, MI, , to create a Vehicle Technical Specification (VTS) which shows the desired capabilities of the Taxi of Tomorrow. The VTS is very much a technical document, with detailed specifications each of the following headings:

-Taxi-specific equipment
-ADA accessibility
-Vehicle configuration (cabin layout, powertrain requirements)
-Peformance (Max/min 0-60 time, fuel economy, range on one tank of fuel)
-Dimensions and Capacities (everything from driver and passenger headroom to washer fluid reservoir capacity)
-Interior Trim (cleanability, comfort)
-HVAC System (performance, noise level)
-NVH (at idle and varying load/speed/road conditions)
-Life Cycle
-Service Intervals and Requirements,
-Durability (Target vehicle life: 400,000 miles/60 months)
-Collision Repair
-Road and Occupant Safety (including integrated booster cushions)
-Recycling and Sustainability

Ford’s Transit Connect Taxi Concept is surely a vehicle that Ford is offering as a solution to New York’s Taxi of Tomorrow initiative. I wouldn’t be surprised to see other such taxi concepts at this week’s NY Auto Show as well.

A similar design competition by the Museum of Modern Art in 1977 saw this very interesting Volvo Experimental Taxi. Thirty-one years after the Volvo above was created for MOMA’s competetion, it will be interesting to see which automakers choose to design concept vehicles to fulfill New York City’s specification in a bid to build the Taxi of Tomorrow.

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Author: Kevin Miller

As Autosavant’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Autosavant, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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