A complex service challenge

While taxis function alongside the city’s extensive public network of subways and buses, individual taxi medallions are actually privately owned. And despite the taxi system being highly regulated for consistency and passenger safety, the wide variety of vehicles with haphazardly stenciled markings made the fleet appear loosely connected.

Our first contribution was to rebrand the fleet to better reflect its significant role in the city’s transportation network. The new identity and iconography creates a visual connection between the taxi, subway and bus systems, and unites the city’s 13,500 medallion cabs under one clear brand. This was the first step to demonstrate that despite the wide spectrum of public and private stakeholders, a more uniform taxi experience was possible.

Prototyping the ideal passenger journey

The NYC taxi system isn’t just a transportation option for commuters and visitors; for many it¹s the family car. Every day, the system serves a mix of professionals, out-of-towners, international tourists and passengers with reduced mobility. Since our goal was to create the best overall taxi experience, we considered the needs of each of these groups, as well as the demands of taxi drivers who work shifts that can last 12 hours.

We explored various use scenarios and social experiences by dissecting and hacking two taxi vehicles in our New York studio. Then we unveiled the full-scale prototypes to the press and public at the NY International Auto Show. What we learned building these prototypes was ultimately included in the Taxi of Tomorrow RFP to manufacturers for a purpose-built vehicle that would become NYC’s exclusive taxi for the next decade.

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The Taxi of Tomorrow experience

The winning Nissan NV200 taxi, with our continued support, has met over 80% of our experience recommendations — in some areas exceeding expectations. Mayor Bloomberg hailed it “the safest, most comfortable, and convenient cab the city has ever had…” The most noticeable improvement is the spacious interior cabin with enough room for luggage. The sealed partition between the passenger and driver not only provides safety, but panoramic vision and easy communication through a natural sounding intercom system. Passengers can take in the NYC skyline through a large sunroof, while an independently controlled air conditioning system keeps passengers and drivers in comfort.

Inside, contoured seats covered in antimicrobial material kill germs and an activated carbon headliner absorbs curious smells. Airplane-style lights provide for reading, and floor lights prevent personal items from being left behind. Seatbelts, door handles and grab bars are all highlighted so they can’t be missed. Need to power up a smartphone? There are USB ports to plug it in.

As New Yorkers ourselves, we look forward to riding the Taxi of Tomorrow along with millions of fellow New Yorkers when it hits the road in late 2013.

“For the first time our city will have a cab that is designed for those that matter the most: the passengers and our hard working drivers.”

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of NYC

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Images courtesy of Nissan North America, Inc.