Sweet ride

Giving New York taxis a lift.

New York Taxi & Limousine Commission

  • Client
    New York Taxi & Limousine Commission
  • Industry
  • Services
    Customer Research, Service Design
  • Client
    New York Taxi & Limousine Commission

  • Services
    Customer Research, Service Design

New York taxis are more than just icons of Manhattan

They’re lifelines for 600,000 riders per day. So it’s no surprise that, as the 100-year anniversary of the cab approached in 2007, the Design Trust for Public Space—a public interest group whose mission it is to improve the public lives of New Yorkers—began a quest to make the aging fleet of taxis safer, more comfortable and accessible.

Their plan was an ambitious one, and it required many players and partners, including Smart Design and the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission. We joined forces to help shepherd the groundbreaking “Taxi of Tomorrow” initiative to redesign the ideal taxi experience inside and out. The Nissan NV200 became the city’s first purpose-built cab, with many improvements for both passengers and drivers.

More than a decade after project kickoff, hundreds thousands of Smart-designed defined cabs roam the streets of New York City, offering a dramatically improved rider experience to keep yellow cabs competitive in the age of Uber.

All over the map

Reimagining the largest and safest taxi system in the world was a thrilling project with huge potential, but it presented daunting challenges. The team had to not only consider passengers and drivers but a complicated infrastructure of public and private stakeholders that included fleet and medallion owners, planners, car manufacturers and city officials.

Hailing a new look

To design a cohesive identity for the 13,000 privately-owned medallion taxis that roam the city’s massive public transit system, Smart replaced the decades-old hand stenciling with an iconic “T” that reminds people that the NYC yellow taxi is part of a greater public transportation system.

The old adage "You can't fight City Hall" would deter most from proposing a change of this significance for New York's privately owned, publicly regulated taxi system. I'm proud that we proved them wrong."
Davin Stowell
Smart CEO

From studio to street

To get “under the hood” of the needs of both passengers and drivers,  Smart dissected and hacked two actual taxis in our New York studio. We explored various user scenarios and social experiences to quickly prototype ideas and even held client conference calls in the cabs for added inspiration.

The ideal taxi experience

The new Taxi of Tomorrow experience allows drivers and passengers to enjoy superior safety, comfort and convenience through:

  • Sliding doors for easier access and lights that warn bicycles of exiting passengers
  • Moon roofs to enjoy the city’s world-famous sights
  • Spacious interiors with plenty of leg room and extra space for luggage
  • Passenger controlled heat and air conditioning
  • USB ports and AC charging station
  • Reading lights and Interior floor lighting to help locate belongings
  • Six-way adjustable driver’s seats and driver storage and workspace
  • Brightly marked seatbelts, door handles and grab bars
  • Interior finishes with anti-microbial, environmentally friendly materials that are easy to clean and absorb odor
  • Crash safety tested partition with passenger airbags

The road to the finish line

Smart unveiled the full-scale prototypes at the New York International Auto Show. Learnings from these prototypes were used to develop the Taxi of Tomorrow RFP—a grueling two-year competition to build the vehicle that would become New York City’s exclusive taxi of the next decade. When the dust settled, Nissan was declared the winner.

Tomorrow today

Since hitting the streets in 2013, the Nissan NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow, with Smart Design’s continued support, has met or exceeded more than 80 percent of Smart’s experience recommendations. Mayor Bloomberg hailed it as “the safest, most comfortable and convenient cab the city has ever had.”

Let’s design a smarter world together