Light conversation at 70 mph

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The " Taxi of Tomorrow " made its debut this week at the New York International Auto Show.

The new taxi, built by Nissan and called the NV200, will gradually replace the 13,000 or so battered Ford Crown Victorias, hybrid Toyota Priuses and Ford Escapes and occasional rogue minivans that rack up an average of 70,000 miles a year on the city's mean streets. (See " Traffic tips from New York cabbies .")

The NV200 deploys a lot of new ideas and technology to solve problems that are very taxi-specific: Anti-microbial interior upholstery, for example, makes a lot of sense if you're picking up 20,000-plus fares a year. A transparent roof pleases the tourists. USB and 12-volt plug-ins please the businessmen. Sliding doors eliminate "dooring" of bicyclists and passing cars, the city taxi commission says. For the first time, passenger airbags work around the partition separating cabbie and customer.


Yet there are ideas too good to restrict to 24 square miles in Manhattan, like the glowing light atop the NV200. Part of the light is simply an in-service indicator. The other is wired to the "low annoyance" horn (described by The New York Times as "a mournful trumpet blast … deep but not jarring, loud but not shrill.")

Brilliant! Now, at a jammed intersection populated almost exclusively by identical yellow NV200s, you'll be able to spot the yahoo spoiling cocktail hour.

Yet strapped to the roofs of workaday sedans and SUVs, that light holds the potential for a whole new means of communication with your fellow drivers.

  • What if it sensed your cellphone signal and lit up a bright yellow when you were on the phone?
  • Or, wired to your accelerator-pedal and brake inputs, reflected your mood?
  • An "I don't use turn signals" light, comparing your use of indicators with actual turns taken.
  • Student driver. Teen driver. Elderly driver. Robot driver.
  • Three words: Facebook status updates.

At 70 mph, a "single" light atop your car could redefine speed dating.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Personal Finance , Insurance

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