In just a few weeks' time, all new NYC taxis (except hybrids) will be required to be NV200s. The Nissan NV200 won NYC's "Taxi of Tomorrow" competition, and on paper it looks great: It's easy to get in and out of; it's roomy on the inside; it's compact on the outside; the horn is reportedly less annoying to the ear; it has charging ports; it has easy-to-locate contrasting-color seatbelt buckles; it has an intercom system so you can communicate clearly with the driver; and coolest of all it's got rear sliding doors, meaning bicyclists will now have the pleasure of crashing directly into oblivious taxi-exiters holding soft shopping bags rather than a metal swinging door.
There are tons of videos showing the NV200, but this is perhaps the most succinct:
So starting October 28th, we should see these all over the city, right?
In a depressing example of how the best design does not always triumph, it is a host of non-design-related matters, completely disconnected from the taxi passenger experience, that are slowly derailing the NV200's uptake. Fleet owners are resistant due to incumbency, as they've presumably got warehouses full of Crown Vic parts; drivers prefer hybrids like the Ford Escape, which gets 34 m.p.g. versus the NV200's 25; and the Greater New York Taxi Association has even filed a lawsuit claiming they cannot legally be forced to buy the NV200. Should their lawsuit not pan out, fleet owners are hedging their bets by rushing to get new versions of their preferred taxis—the Crown Vics and Escapes—up and running before the October 28th deadline, thereby flooding their fleet with legal non-NV200s.
Nissan's got a fair bit of skin in this game, as serving 600,000 daily NYC taxi customers holds some financial allure; but while their latest NV200 press release trumpets the taxi's humming production plant in Mexico, both The New York Times and Green Car Reports tell fuller tales of the taxi's uptake woes.
So how will this all shake out? NYC's Mayor Bloomberg, the driving political force behind the Taxi of Tomorrow program, is on his way out of office, and may no longer have the juice to see this thing get pushed through. But at least he can take solace in the fact that he has effectively altered NYC's transportation infrastructure: He's a noted proponent of Citibikes, and those heavy, blue two-wheelers are a visible success. Even your bike noob correspondent has become a daily rider. I just hope that one day I'll be able to crash my Citibike into someone who gets out of an NV200 without looking.