Could the Nissan NV200 be the New York Cab of Tomorrow?

Those who use New York cabs as part of their everyday life, may be interested to know that between the 1st-5th November 2011, the ‘Taxi of Tomorrow’ Design Expo will open its doors to the public and is described by officials as a quest for the new iconic yellow cab.

David Yassky, Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) Chairman and Mayor Bloomberg announced in May that they had picked the Nissan NV200 to be the cab of the future. In a few years, the NV200 will be the only vehicle that cab owners can purchase and cover with commercial taxi insurance when retiring and replacing old taxis.

The NV200 minivan cab will have a see through roof for vertical sightseeing, an air-filtering system, passenger reading lights, backseat airbags, and charging stations with one regular outlet and two USB ports.

There’s a huge rear compartment space to carry tourist’s luggage and extra leg room for the cabbie. Passengers will also be treated to anti-bacterial, non-stick seats.

There is a downside to the NV200 though, as they won’t have the configuration or ramps to accommodate wheelchair users. Currently, there are 13,237 yellow cabs and out of those, only 231 are wheelchair accessible.

Two groups, the Disability Rights Advocates and the United Spinal Association, in January, filed a lawsuit claiming that the city is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not requiring all cabs to be accessible for wheelchairs.

However, Yassky was dismissive about the claims. Federal prosecutors, however, filed court papers detailing why they agree with that the city is violating the civil rights law.

There’s a hoping that the city’s lawyers lose and that the TLC could be ordered to start converting to a fleet that is accessible to all.

Currently, many disabled people are using MTA’s Access-A-Ride programme which is a service that this year will consume $440 million so a wheelchair-accessible fleet could be very welcomed.

NYC Cabbies told not to Honk

Taxi drivers in New York have been warned this week that they must stop persistently honking their horns at all hours of the day and night. The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has issued the warning.

The TLC and the New York Police Department (NYPD) have the power to fine them $350 if they are thought to be honking their horn unnecessarily. The organisations have even gone as far as telling passengers to inform them if the horns are blown for no reason.

David Yassky, Chief of the TLC sent taxi drivers a message saying: “Drivers — remember that honking is against the law except when warning of imminent danger!”

It is thought that the message may be for those that have recently invested in a taxi insurance policy, and are, therefore, inexperienced taxi drivers as they are more likely to use their horn to express anger at traffic jams.

It has been reported that a letter from a resident in Manhattan is what prompted the warning. The letter read that taxi drivers were repeatedly honking their horns outside the resident’s window.

Mr Yassky has said that he is aware that the issue is widespread however, and he now hopes the message will go some way to reminding taxi drivers to try to avoid honking if it is not absolutely necessary.

The TLC has recorded that only 30 complaints were filed between July and September, which is down from the 50 that were filed during the same period last year.

Mr Yassky added that the main thing is for drivers to be considerate to their fellow road users and the residents of Manhattan, and that blowing the horn in order to get traffic to move quicker or to express anger simply is not allowed.

Many New York taxi drivers however feel that honking their horn is just merely part of their job and they have said that they are not prepared to change their driving style.

Cab Driver Jailed for Dangerous Driving

A man from south Yorkshire said today how he is lucky to be alive, after he was run over by a taxi driver and left unconscious with a broken ankle, a brain injury and punctured lung.

Martin Malia, spoke out after cab driver, Mohammed Sarfraz was jailed for 14 months, after being convicted of dangerous driving, not reporting an accident and leaving the scene of a collision.

The cab driver, Sarfraz, was warned that the UK Border Agency may consider deporting him. He has lost his private hire insurance, license and has also received a banned from driving for 3 years.

Malia and his girlfriend Kirsty Lockwood had paid their taxi fare for the journey to Maltby from Rotherham town centre, when Sarfraz insisted on an additional fare when they arrived home.

When they both refused to give more money, the taxi driver locked Lockwood in the taxi and drove off, turning the vehicle around in the cul-de-sac and knocking Malia over.

After he was run over, Malia suffered a broken ankle, brain injury, internal injuries and punctured lung in the incident which happened last August and needed surgery to fit pins and plates to his ankle.

Malia says he still has scars from where the taxi’s tyre struck his chest and also suffers from memory problems.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, head injury specialists, are now looking to secure a care and rehabilitation package to help him recover from his injuries.

Malia is currently undergoing occupational therapy and physiotherapy at the Sheffield Community Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust.

“I feel lucky to still be alive after what happened. The whole experience was terrifying and Kirsty and I have both been scarred for life – physically and emotionally,” said Malia, who has no recollection of the incident.

Lockwood explained, “We had taken the taxi home with friends and had just dropped them off, but when we arrived at Martin’s house the driver demanded we pay over the original fare, which we had already paid.

“Having done the journey in a taxi before, I knew how much we should be paying so I asked him to show me the meter, but he just plain refused.

“As I was arguing with the driver, Martin got out of the car to go into the house. The driver started to get angry, and then locked me in the car and drove off down the road.

“It was absolutely terrifying when the driver locked me in the car. I didn’t know what he was going to do.
“I then had to sit there while he ran Martin down and I could feel the bump as he drove over the top of him. I just remember thinking he’d killed my boyfriend.”

Kate Petchey, of Irwin Mitchell’s serious injury team, explained that, “Martin has suffered very serious injuries as a result of this incident and now has a long process of rehabilitation ahead of him.”

Taxi Sales Have Dropped

Manganese Bronze, this week, has blamed a difficult economy for the ever decreasing taxi sales recorded over the last three months.

The black cab manufacturer, which has supplied England with thousands and thousands of cabs for so many years now, has seen its sales plummet by nearly 9% when compared to figures from last year in the quarter to the end of September. Manganese Bronze are also down by 7.5% on 2010 for the year so far. It seems that there are less Manganese Bronze vehicles being insured with a taxi insurance policy in 2011.

This news comes after recent figures for the cab sales of Mercedes Vito’s in London also fell from 234 in the first half of 2010, to 171 this year. The economic downturn has certainly bitten numerous cab providers it seems.

Manganese Bronze has added that sales so far in October have followed a similar trend. However, despite the gloomy sales figures, Manganese Bronze at least held positive margins and boosted its already dominant share of the London cab market. This increased from 79% to 81%. So it is not all bad news for the black cab firm.

Meanwhile, international sales have actually increased for the firm this year thanks to a huge order from Azerbaijan for 1000 cabs to be imported to the country’s capital city, Baku. This nearly trebled international sales for Manganese Bronze this year.

From 2012 onwards the company’s London sales will also benefit from the new rules which have been put in place in order to clamp down on the level of pollution in the capital city. This is to be achieved by banning any cabs that are over 15 years old from the capital’s roads.

Furthermore, Manganese Bronze’s shares remained unchanged at 35p. The firm is also now valued at a total of £10.6 million.

Prisoners being Taken to Court in Black Cabs

Despite the Government paying a security company £42 million to transport inmates to court in secure vans, they are being taken in black cabs.

After a new computer programme designed to organise pick-up and drop-off times between jails and courts failed, Serco, the security firm, has had to use more than 80 private taxis covered with private hire insurance in 6 weeks.
To get the inmates to court on time, the prison chiefs had to call taxis at the last minute.

Because of the computer problems and delays, 900 prisoners have been returned to their jails too late at night and have not been able to gain entry because the gates are locked.

This has meant that Serco has been forced to search for police cells to accommodate the inmates for the night. Some forces charge between £100 and £500 a night to take prisoners into custody and the total cost could be as much as £300,000.

One court appearance was cancelled and rearranged because a taxi turned up too late.

Critics have called for an inquiry into the arrangement, which wasn’t approved by the Ministry of Justice beforehand.

At the Feltham Young Offenders Institution in South West London, where seven black cab journeys have been made, a source said, “The use of black taxis to transport prisoners is becoming a regular occurrence and there are lots of questions as to why this is happening.

“We cannot see why a company that has been awarded a multi-million-pound contract cannot sort out proper and secure transportation.

“It seems absolutely ridiculous that inmates – violent or otherwise – are being moved about in taxis. The feeling is that the contract has been waved through with undue haste and Serco is making it up as it goes along.”

Serco must provide two prison officers when escorting ‘non-violent’ offenders to court, under the terms of the contract signed off by the Ministry of Justice, which came into force on 31st August 2011 and is valued at £42 million a year for seven years.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the arrangements will save the government over £250 million a year as the new computer system should take the transportation of prisoners more efficient.

A spokesmen for Serco said “The security and safety of prisoners remains our top priority at all times.

“In co-operation with HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the National Offender Management Service and the police, we are working to resolve the current operational issues and restore the service to the standard of efficiency which we, our customers and the public expect.”

Video Screens on Black Cabs in 2012

In time for the London 2012 Games, thousands of London’s black cabs could get video screens fitted on their vehicles which will show adverts and also customised ads depending on where the cab is located.

The innovative screens which will be attached to the roof of the cab, will be tested and trialled next month in November, on top of a mini.

Passengers in the cabs will also be given a free connection to high speed Wi-Fi to use while they travel.

The double sided screen will be able to be constantly updated with its live 3G connection and a GPS chip will allow marketers and advertisers to display ads in certain locations e.g. hotel ads could be shown outside a tube or railway station. Traffic warnings could also be shown if there was an accident nearby.

However, due to the current legislation that forbids the use of full motion videos on the screens, trailers for films or adverts for TV shows will not be shown.

The TfL (Transport for London) is working with Eyetease Media’s CEO, Richard Corbett, to develop the idea. Corbett says, “I spent a lot of time in New York and saw the taxitop advertising there was interesting.

“However, I couldn’t understand why there weren’t digital version. After some research, I decided to have a go at it.”

He carries on saying, “We made a proof of concept last year, using funding from friends. It was very hand to mouth, but we got there, and every penny had to count,

“We took it to Transport for London, and they loved it, so we have refined the final version which we hope will be on over 5,000 cabs by the time the 2012 Games open.”

Eyetease Media will pay cabbies around £2,000 per year to have the screen on their cabs, which is a nice extra bit of cash for the drivers, after the increase cost of having to maintain their cabs, the rise of taxi insurance and the fewer number of customers. The firm is working with two large advertising companies to sell the ads.

“Previously firms would have to buy an ad for a long time. With this, they can buy ads for an hour, a day or even just when cabs are in a certain location,” says Corbett.

Eyetease Media also hopes to sell the system across the globe, including New York.

Director of Taxi and Private Hire at TfL, Jason Mason, said “We have been approached by two organisations regarding the installation of electronic advertising screens that would be fixed to the roof of London cabs. However, no agreement has been made and any proposal of this kind must meet a series of strict criteria before trials or tests take place.
Discussions are ongoing.”