For an auto show in New York, it makes sense that one of the cars everyone's most interested in is a cab. Specifically, the Nissan "Taxi Of Tomorrow" re-revealed yesterday. And while the design is novel (at least from the perspective of the old Crown Vics), almost everything in it is immediately understandable to cab riders. Except for that little UFO on the roof.
The UFO's invaded and taken over the old-school yellowing-plastic-with-one-12V-bulb taxi "in service" light. The new unit has been given a great deal of thought, which is appropriate, since this unsung little bit of lighting equipment is actually very important to the lives of New Yorkers.
Originally, Nissan's designers wanted the roof-mounted unit to do all kinds of things, including turn indicators and trouble lights. It ended up doing two jobs.
The first job is to let you know if the cab is in service or not. This seems a simple job, but current cabs use a variety of methods, including illuminated "out of service" lights that are really pretty confusing, even to seasoned New Yorkers. Nissan's solution is to only illuminate the white LED tube light and the taxi's number if it's available. Easy. It's on, you can hail it, it's off, don't bother. No more trying to read a light across the street in the rain.
The other function is a novel one, and one most of us may have never considered: a horn accountability light. Noise pollution is a big deal, and a taxi can be a one-man annoyance machine with the right combination of impatient, over-caffeinated cabbie and loud horn. The new Nissan cab's roof unit illuminates special bright yellow lights at the corners whenever the horn is used. This way, pedestrians or residents can tell exactly who the jackass is who's laying on his horn so damn much.
Speaking of horn annoyances, Nissan is still working with the city of New York to find the optimal horn tone, in what sounds like a state-of-the-art annoyance lab. The development of an ideal non-annoying car horn will be a watershed moment that we'll all be telling our children about.