Nissan offers the ‘taxicab of the future’

Nissan's NV200 Taxi. The company has dubbed it the 'cab of the future.' (Lori Aratani/The Washington Post) Nissan’s NV200 Taxi. The company has dubbed it the “cab of the future.” (Lori Aratani/The Washington Post)

My colleague Mark Berman and I turned a few heads earlier this month when we stepped out of a New York City taxicab parked in front of The Washington Post.

No, we hadn’t been traipsing around New York City on a very important reporting assignment. Rather, a bit of New York had come to D.C. for the Washington Auto Show, which was in town last week.

And that cab was no ordinary cab. Manufactured by Nissan, the NV200 is part of a new breed of taxis that are being brought in to modernize the New York City fleet.  At one time the Bloomberg administration had hoped that the van-like vehicles would be the only taxi on the streets, but lawsuits and other issues got in the way, and the NV200 will now be one of several taxis you can hail in Manhattan. A version of the cab also will be making its debut in London later this year.

But the folks at Nissan didn’t want to talk about that as much as they wanted to show off  what they call the taxicab of tomorrow.

Some of these models are already part of the New York City fleet. (Lori Aratani/The Washington Post) Some of these models are part of the New York City fleet. (Lori Aratani/The Washington Post)

As Steve Oldham, manager of Northeast Region Corporate Communications for Nissan explained, the NV200 comes with a bevy of new features. It’s bike-friendly, with doors that slide rather than open out, lessening the chance of  bike/car door accidents, known as “dooring.” The interior is roomy with no middle hump on the floor to make sitting awkward. Germophobes would probably love hearing that the seats are covered in “breathable, antimicrobial” fabric that simulates the look and feel of leather.

Oldham said Nissan wanted to design a cab that would offer passengers a “limo, black car-like experience.”

The back seat features a built-in credit card reader and a panel that allows passengers to adjust the air conditioning. Oldham said the cab’s giant skylight has proved popular with passengers who can peer through the window and get a whole new perspective on Manhattan. And yes, folks, the version we sat in did still have its new-car smell.

Other features: USB ports for quick charges, a “low-annoyance” horn with exterior lights that flash when it’s honked, an “active Carbon-lined” headliner helps neutralize interior odors. Another small feature: a step that pops out when the door slides open to make it easier to enter and exit the vehicle.

The NV200 features a pop out step to make entering and exiting the taxi a bit easier. (Lori Aratani/The Washington Post) The NV200 features a pop-out step to make entering and exiting the taxi easier. (Lori Aratani/The Washington Post)

These cabs would probably be a welcome change for D.C. taxicab customers who have  long had to deal with a mishmash of vehicles. But would we ever see these vehicles on the streets of the District?

It’s possible, said Neville Waters, spokesman for the D.C. Taxicab Commission. As long as the vehicle meets certain standards, cab companies could opt to add them to their fleets.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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Dana Hedgpeth · January 30, 2014