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Today Is a Very Big Day for New York City Cabs

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Nissan’s NV200 “Taxi of Tomorrow” becomes New York City’s standard yellow cab on Tuesday, the New York Times reports.

While other mustard-and-lime-colored cabs will continue to roam the five boroughs, the designation means taxi operators will have to replace their existing vehicles with Nissan’s cab once it’s time to swap out their current fleet. Since thousands of taxis are retired every year, the new model–which currently makes up about 750 of the 13,000 or so New York City cabs–should soon be ubiquitous.

The NV200 has sunroofs and phone charging outlets designed to make taxis more desirable for passengers, plus sliding doors for safety’s sake (cyclists rejoice). The taxis are also outfitted with what the city is calling “low-annoyance horns” that are less ear-splitting than their forebears.

The new vehicle standard arrives as New York City’s taxis are struggling to compete with car-hailing startup Uber. Since Uber’s entry into the city, the value of taxi cab medallions–the once-expensive licenses necessary to drive a cab–have plummeted. Many taxi drivers are also defecting to Uber, a defection that allows freedom from dispatchers and set schedules.

While New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration recently floated the idea of capping the number of Uber vehicles on the road, the company’s PR counter-offensive was so effective that the city backed down. After that debacle, offering a more comfortable taxi experience may be one of the few tools in the city’s belt to bolster the local taxi industry.

A Brief History of New York City Taxicabs

New York Yellow Taxi
An early electric hansom taxicab on a New York City street, circa 1900. The Electric Carriage and Wagon Company, the first taxicab company in New York City, began operating 12 electric hansom cabs in July 1897—a time when city traffic was overwhelmingly of the horse-drawn variety.Nathan Lazarnick—George Eastman House/Getty Images
New York Yellow Cab
By the 1920s, as demand for autos boomed, industrialists had recognized the potential of the taxi market. Automobile manufacturers like General Motors and the Ford Motor Company began operating fleets of cabs. Here, a New York City yellow cab in 1929.Museum of Modern Art/AP
New York Taxi 1936
Nicknamed the "Sunshine" cab, taxis with a European-style sun roof were put into service in New York, June 19, 1936. The new fleet was the largest single order for new taxicabs in history. J. Stirling Getchell—AP
The new model taxi cab from Chevrolet is shown in New York City, May 17, 1950. The Taxicab bureau is prepared to buy up to 1,400 of the Chevrolets to replace the larger and more expensive cabs now on the streets. (AP Photo/Carl Nesensohn)
The new model taxicab from Chevrolet is shown in New York City, May 17, 1950.Carl Nesensohn—AP
New York Taxi Cab 1970
Taxis drive through the streets of Manhattan near 5th Avenue in New York City, 1972. The vehicles' signature yellow livery didn't become law until 1967, when the city ordered that all licensed "medallion taxis" be painted the same color, in order to cut down on unofficial drivers and make the cabs more recognizableEverett Collection
NYC Taxi Cab 1970
The Checker Cab, used between 1956 and 1982, became one of the most recognizable symbols of mid-20th century urban life. Manufactured by the Checkered Cab Company, the iconic black-and-yellow taxi was advertised as a roomy and rugged alternative to the standard American passenger sedan.Wikimedia Commons
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 01: A gas-electric hybrid taxi cab drives on a street March 1, 2011 in New York City. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal in a case that ends New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's four-year fight to force the yellow-taxi industry in New York to fully replace its 13,000 vehicles with gas-electric hybrids. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
A gas-electric hybrid taxi drives on a street on March 1, 2011 in New York City. In May 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a five-year plan to switch New York City's taxicabs to more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. However, the plan was dropped after operators complained that the cost of maintaining the new cars outweighed the fuel savings. Today, New York City has around 4,300 hybrid taxis, representing almost 33 percent of the 13,237 taxis in service—the most in any city in North America.Chris Hondros—Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - UNSPECIFIED DATE: In this handout image provided by the City of New York, a Nissan NV200 is seen as a New York City taxi cab in New York City. The Taxi and Limousine Commission along with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg annouced the Nissan NV200 designed by Nissan North America, Inc., has been chosen as the winner of the Taxi of Tomorrow competition and will become the City’s exclusive taxicab for a decade. (Photo by City of New York via Getty Images)
A Nissan NV200 is unveiled in New York City on April 2, 2012. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the vehicle would serve as the city's exclusive taxicab for the next decade. The iconic New York City taxi has gotten a 21st-Century makeover, with low-annoyance horns, USB chargers for passengers and germ-fighting seats to cut down on bad odors. Taxi operators will be required to buy the Nissan NV 200 at a cost of about $29,000 starting in late 2013.City of New York/Getty Images

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