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    The Ford Crown Victoria taxi is becoming a thing of the past (Ian Muttoo, Flickr)

    The future of taxi transport in New York City could look a lot different by 2014 -- though we can guarantee it will still be yellow.

    In an unprecedented move, the city will be unifying its iconic taxicab fleet, introducing the first-ever custom-built taxicab designed through a competition dubbed the "Taxi of Tomorrow."

    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) Chairman David Yassky unveiled the three finalists in the search for the city's new cab in November. The announcement comes three years after the TLC first made public its intention to standardize the vehicle, and nearly a year since the agency issued a request for proposals inviting auto manufacturers and designers to submit their best concepts for the new design.

    Ford, Nissan, and Who?

    Three finalists -- from Ford, Nissan and newcomer Karsan -- were selected from proposals submitted by seven companies.

    Ford's Taxi of Tomorrow (Ford).

    Ford's design is based on the Transit Connect van, which is available in the U.S. and was named 2010 North American Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Aside from the advantages of a vehicle that is already in production and available domestically, Ford brings to the table an unmatched wealth of experience in supplying the New York City taxi industry, a TLC spokesperson said. Further, the Transit Connect was approved for taxi use last spring by the city of Boston.

    Nissan's Taxi of Tomorrow (Nissan).

    Nissan's entry is a compact van that offers the most passenger space of the three, and is based on their NV200 model that was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2009. It is not currently available in the U.S., but unlike the other finalists, Nissan has stated that it will build a fully electric version of the vehicle, Yassky said.

    Karsan's Taxi of Tomorrow (Karsan).

    The third finalist is a wildcard. Proposed by Turkish automaker Karsan -- which manufactures cars for Fiat and Hyundai -- the futuristic-looking V1 doesn't even exist yet. The smallest of the three, the V1 offers a glass roof, a wheelchair ramp that can reach the curb and a unique configuration where one passenger faces the others, a flashback to the jump seats of the  long-retired Checker Cab. Though the V1 has its advantages, Yassky said the company will have to overcome a lack of experience in producing and selling vehicles in the U.S.

    All the designs are based on small vans rather than sedans, and can fit more luggage than most of the existing fleet models. In addition, some of them feature chargers for cell phones and laptops.

    The City’s Short Timeline

    The winning proposal will be announced in early 2011 and a contract finalized by summer. If the city sticks to its schedule, the new taxi will hit the streets by 2013 -- though fall 2014 is considered a hard deadline, Yassky said. The full rollout will take several years, as current vehicles will be replaced as cab owners retire their vehicles -- typically after three to five years of service.

    The chosen vehicle will be the only licensed taxicab model allowed in the city for at least 10 years, but the city is not looking for a static vehicle for the full contract period. Rather, it wants a vehicle that can evolve. As such, the manufacturer's proposal must include a plan to deliver either successive generations of vehicles or one vehicle modified over the life of the contract.

    Specifications for the new taxicab call for a design that is safe, comfortable, and affordable. Further, it calls for a vehicle that boasts a smaller environmental footprint, with lower emissions and improved fuel economy. A smaller physical footprint is required as well, but one that offers more usable interior room and is universally accessible to all users. The city also wants an iconic design that will identify the new taxi with the Big Apple.

    As it is the taxi medallion owners -- not the city -- who purchase the taxis, there is no contract with the city up for grabs. The city is merely negotiating on behalf of the industry as a whole, Yassky said. The winner of the Taxi of Tomorrow contest will earn the exclusive right to supply taxis for the city's fleet of over 13,000 medallion taxis for at least a decade -- a deal potentially worth $1 billion, TLC sources said.

    AOL Autos Poll
    Which taxi gets your vote?

    In a city with nearly 8.5 million residents and 45 million annual visitors, the New York taxi fleet transports 240 million taxi passengers per year, and annual taxi fare revenues total about $2.8 billion -- about the same as the annual fare collection for all of the city's extensive mass transit system, according to the TLC.

    Death Of The Crown Vic

    The current New York City taxi fleet is comprised of 16 different vehicles supported by nine manufacturers, with a mix of sedans, minivans and hybrid SUVs -- none of which were specifically designed to be a taxi. Rather, these vehicles have all been outfitted by third parties, garages and meter shops to conform to TLC's taxicab specifications.

    The mainstay of the current fleet is the Ford Crown Victoria, which accounts for about 67 percent of the fleet, according to the TLC. However, Ford is scheduled to stop producing the model in 2011 -- a move that’s factored heavily in the City's decision to revamp the taxicab fleet.

    "For quite some time, people in the industry have known the Crown Victoria was going to be discontinued, so that's a big part of it," Yassky said. "The other part is that the Crown Victoria -- while it has rendered tremendous service to the industry and to taxi customers for years -- isn't perfect. It's not one of the new breed of fuel-efficient vehicles, it's not accessible to all users, and while the back seat is quite roomy, there are those who feel that the ride isn't as comfortable as other cars," he added.

    Though the initiation of the Taxi of Tomorrow competition pre-dates his role as TLC Chairman, Yassky said his predecessor saw the death of the Crown Victoria as "an opportunity for improvement" and decided to get out in front of the inevitable change.

    The Next Step

    Each of the three finalists has now been asked to address deficiencies the selection committee has identified and to submit a best and final offer.

    "Each of these three proposals is promising but, of course, none is perfect," Bloomberg said. "The next step is to ask each company to submit their best and final offers -- both on quality and on price -- so that we can make sure the model is affordable for taxi owners and passengers."

    The city is giving the three companies a month to respond, but Bloomberg also pointed out that the city is not obliged to go with any of them.

    "If it doesn't meet our needs, then we can start the process all over again, or say we just can't find what we want and come back and visit this at another time in the future," he said.

    In the meantime, the TLC has put together a campaign to gauge public opinion, including a survey where New Yorkers can vote for the features they want to see included in the final vehicle design. To incentivize riders, survey participants are entered into a contest to win a year's worth of free taxi rides.

    "The City has never before worked with the auto industry to design one taxicab specifically for New York City -- until now," Bloomberg said. "We want New Yorkers to take part in this process and tell us the features they want to see in the Taxi of Tomorrow."

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    1 - 20 of 208 Comments
    itsnotnationalsm Dec 10, 2010 8:44 AM
    it's not about nationalism. it's not about karsan. people doing it just for fun. and people who voting for karsan are not doing it for karsan. they said themselves that "inci szlk". and this is an "anket sikertme." ps: cCc inci siker.cCc
    Report This
    michaeljohn133 Dec 10, 2010 8:01 AM
    I can't believe the people who vote according to where the car is coming from. That is 1940s nationalism, what a shame, its 21st century!! Just a note; Ford is also manufactured in Turkey, where do you think your computers, clothes, tvs, and million things you own are manufactured?? I can't believe people can vote for taxis that are not event handicap accessible. Disgrace! I call all the handicapped people to vote for Karsan's handicap accessible design, accessibility is not a luxury and doesn't require an US made vehicle.
    Report This
    bannedinciliseli Dec 10, 2010 6:39 AM
    At this morning this Poll's results was different from now on. We can see that Karsan is ahead of this poll now. Because in Turkey, there is a campaign started for voting Karsan Car. Why? Because Karsan is a Turkish Company and all cars will be produced in Turkey if they win this competition! What a shame! Please prevent votes from Turkey, also from outside of New York!
    Report This
    DevAutos Dec 10, 2010 6:39 AM
    At this morning this Poll's results is different from now on. We can see that Karsan is ahead of this poll now. Because in Turkey, there is a campaign started for voting Karsan Car. Why? Because Karsan is a Turkish Company and all cars will be produced in Turkey if they win this competition! What a shame! Please prevent votes from Turkey, also from outside of New York!
    Report This
    azimutmarine Dec 09, 2010 2:44 AM
    "Stylish and Elegant" Karsan taxi design is way better than the others, it sure is the one that suits the New York Style. UG
    Report This
    larrye4363 Dec 08, 2010 1:34 PM
    Sorry to disappoint. If I'm not mistaken, the Ford Transit Connect is made in Turkey. The Nissan is the only one of the three which has a shot at being assembled in the USA
    Report This
    robert852 Dec 08, 2010 12:34 AM
    Go with the Ford...as long as they don't make it in Mexico or Canada...although, I guess they beat Korea.
    Report This
    happyhondarider Dec 07, 2010 11:57 PM
    bloomberg sucks and is an enemy of America
    Report This
    girlies570 Dec 07, 2010 3:38 PM
    I like the Karsan for the windows and the futuristic look not only ******** also wheelchair accessable
    Report This
    gashley840 Dec 07, 2010 3:13 PM
    I agree with dalander: I drove checker taxi in the late 60's while I was in school. Why not include amodern GM drive train in an original style Checker. But that is logical and it was a specific purpose vehicle. Duh, who would be so stupid as to do what is right.
    Report This
    rpvitiello Dec 07, 2010 11:02 AM
    Was this not an open competition? If GM and Chrysler don't have an offering isn't it because they did not submit one, or one that meets the requirements of NYC? NYC has different transit needs than the vast majority of the US. So cars built for texas are not going to necessarily be the best option for NY. Almost the entire transit system in NYC at this point is made by foreign companies. Trains by kawasaki, city owned cars by toyota and nissan. Taxi cabs other than the crown vic seem to mostly be toyota. If american companies want the business they need to get off their ass and offer something customers want. Not expect ANOTHER handout just because they are "American." Ford is the only one that seams to have bothered to put in a serious effort and thus they are being seriously considered. I myself would rather not rely on some 1/2 baked poorly built taxi's for the next 10 years just to save "American jobs" when a foreign company had a superior design that was less expensive and better suited to the job. Go look at the cars soviet russia produced and then look at how much they cost vs what the western world had and you tell me which is the better system?
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    kwoodylandscape Dec 06, 2010 1:19 PM
    When is our country going to get a clue... buying American puts Americans to work. Nissan and Karsan shouldn't even be considered. Why are our policymakers and our government officials so hell bent on running American into the ground. I went to a recent Thanksgiving Day parade and here's the Veterans Administration representatives up front in nothing but a foreign auto made car. Simple math people... buy American,, America goes back to work. It takes 40 man hours to build the average american car, 52 cars is an American back to work full time for a year. HELLO????? Anyone listening>>>>????
    Report This
    patge Dec 06, 2010 12:02 PM
    All three of those vehicles are "butt ugly"!!! This country has no class anymore!
    Report This
    suckitnympho Dec 06, 2010 9:20 AM
    I think ford should make a similar cab as the Karsan because they can do it better. The flexability that the design of the Karsan offers is far superior to the design Ford offers. Keep this in mind, Ford's design is hefty and big. It would make driving through the streets of NYC a lot more crowded for those of us that actually drive through the city.
    Report This
    rca3020535 Dec 06, 2010 8:01 AM
    YOU SHOULD WELL ENOUGH ALONE TO MANY PEOPLE IN THE POT ROCCO CALISE
    Report This
    dalander Dec 06, 2010 6:49 AM
    I remember the Checker, and got to drive one in the 60's. The passenger space was great, and they were a tank in solid construction. A similar model with today's engines, would still be viable.
    Report This
    amecincco Dec 06, 2010 6:30 AM
    Most of you if not all of you commentators, missed the picture. Its called politinomics. If Ford was to remain the taxi manufacturer, the city would not have to resort to such a contest and maintain the current bidding process or just renew Fords' contract. Nissan, being a somewhat popular selling car, shares the same looks as Ford's proposed design. Notice the third party vehicle has lots of windows unlike its 2 competitors. HMMMM So that opens a door for ......THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK Karsan. Karsan manufactures vehicles in Turkey. What a way to get another low wage paying company into the world market. So what they dont have the volume experience, so what if they are small. Some big auto maker or money mogul will team up with them, finance the company to keep up with the demand. So as politics and economics take their course, dont hold your breathe, you might turn blue. Just another American entity trying to destrot the American working class. Shame on you NYC for even entertaining a foreign company for a local product. Hopefully I'm wrong and Ford gets the contract. Even though Ford's parts are not made in the USA.
    Report This
    one72 Dec 06, 2010 6:22 AM
    Only American cabs in Americas most famous city. Do not add to the problem our out sourcing has already created. Our companies are now making quality again due to no longer allowing the accountants to run the company. Buy American is more important than ever.
    Report This
    hgeorgech Dec 06, 2010 6:11 AM
    London, England has had unique taxis for decades (their famous black taxis) - they are roomy, can store ample luggage and can turn around in narrow streets with ease ... why not utilize those here? They have a proven track record and last forever ... just paint 'em yellow!
    Report This
    swsmith426 Dec 06, 2010 6:07 AM
    will the price of the fare go up probably so and i bet not just by one or two dollars either just what the government should be wasting money on is some ugly ass ahort busses
    Report This
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    The future of taxi transport in New York City could look a lot different by 2014 -- though we can guarantee it will still be yellow.
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