Earlier this year, NYC's officials have approved a plan to replace the existing taxis with cars that provide an average city fuel consumption of 25 miles per gallon. A few months later, the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade filed a lawsuit against TLC trying to stop the switchover, mainly focusing on safety issues as well as difficulties in buying replacement parts in time in case something brakes down.
And they seem to have a point! As far as Japanese manufacturers Honda and Toyota are concerned – two of the most active companies in the hybrid-car sector – the bulletproof plastic partition separating the driver from his client(s) might have a serious negative impact on the rear-passenger safety. More precisely, it could block the functionality of certain passive and active safety devices such as side airbags, rear airbags and side curtain airbags.
Also, in case of an accident, the rear passengers are likely to be thrown into the partition – as polls show that almost no one in New York City uses the rear seat-belts – resulting in minor or medium injuries. Most car automakers previously admitted that their main goal was not to create a vehicle designed for public transportation or cab service but for personal use. The partition was never taken into consideration when building the car and neither was providing a large number of customers immediate maintenance or replacement parts.
There are currently 13,000 taxis in New York City and the law states that each fleet operator must replace a car every 3 years. If the new hybrid-fleet rule will be implemented, the next car that will enter one's fleet would have to be one of eight approved hybrids. However, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is still to issue a statement as to when exactly will this law become effective.