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Building the taxi of the future (now with low-annoyance horn)

Author Jacqueline Detwiler Illustration James Provost


New York City taxis transport 236 million passengers a year, but ask a New Yorker about them and you’ll hear a litany of complaints: The horns wake the baby, the interiors smell like aged cheese, bicyclists get hit by unexpected doors. All of these woes may be obsolete soon enough. In 2009, the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission released a 26-page list of requirements culled from interviews with various taxi drivers, owners and passengers, and invited car companies the world over to compete for the contract. The winning proposal, the Nissan NV200, hits streets this month with such innovations as sliding doors to prevent bike and pedestrian accidents and a charging station with two USB ports and a 12-volt electrical outlet. Did we mention the stink-free seats and low-annoyance horn? Here’s how they did it.

1. Antimicrobial vinyls—in this case, a  resin that has been infused with silver ions—have been used in the marine industry for years to prevent mold growth and other damp-weather woes. The NV200 marks the first time such a material will be used on taxi seats. Designers also hid active carbon behind the headliner to nix unwelcome scents.

2. How do you create a low-annoyance horn? According to Nissan’s studies, horns with single tones rather than double tones, as well as horns with more bass, are less grating, regardless of volume. What’s more, the new taxi will have lights that are activated whenever the horn is used, helping police enforce “no honk” zones.

3. Nissan design director Francois Farion’s favorite addition is the seven-square-foot moonroof. “When I landed in New York for the first time, I was disappointed that I basically had to stick my head out of a window to be able to see the vertical city,” he says. “This provides that vision of the city, which is going to surprise even longtime New Yorkers.”

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