I keep reading about Lyft and Uber and all these fancy-pants technology companies trying to make taking a taxi suck less than it does. Oh, and driver-less? Less driver vans? Autonobots cars? I have no idea.
What if you tried to improve a taxi in the 1970s, but apps hadn't been invented yet? That's exactly what New York's Modern of Modern Art (MoMa) set out to do in the 1970s, hoping to improve the quality of life in large cities in the process.
Alfa Romeo to the rescue, naturally!
Thankfully, much of MoMa’s criteria for its taxi exhibition—The Taxi Project: Realistic Solutions for Today—has been digitally preserved. Here’s what automakers needed to consider:
- To produce with the cooperation of the automobile industry, at reasonable cost, a taxi vehicle which would better serve the needs of the taxi industry, the drivers, and the passengers;
- To propose an expanded role for taxis as a supplement to existing mass transportation, in response to the need for an alternative to conventional transit and the private automobile;
- To demonstrate "paratransit" vehicles—taxis, jitneys, dial-a-rides, subscription services, etc.—are vital to the community in terms of the economy, the environment, and the conservation of energy, as well as efficiency and convenience.
Based on the A12, successor to the Alfa Romeo Romeo shown here, the New York Taxi was one of the last evolutions of the Italian carmaker's commercial line.
With Giugiaro's Italdesign leading the development, the project was set in motion. Italdesign says that "the beauty of its shape was of secondary importance," — which is to say it's the sexiest yellow box you’ve ever seen.
Here's what Italdesign delivered:
- 2m² (21.5 ft²) of passenger floor space
- Overall dimensions 30 per cent less than a traditional (1970s) cab
- Length of less than 4 metres (13 ft.)
- Seating for five passengers
- Excellent visibility
- "Plate-glass window in the middle of the roof treats the passengers to a panoramic view of the sky," something Nissan copied for the NV200-based cab
- Dual sliding doors
- Provisions for persons with disabilities
Based on the Alfa Romeo A12 commercial van, I'm not sure if the New York Taxi featured the front-drive van's 52 horsepower 1300cc twin cam from the Giulia sedan(!) or the optional 1760cc Perkins diesel.
If it had been adopted in the 1970s, what would the humble New York Taxi look like today, LWB Tonale cabs…?
Most importantly, if you were late for a flight, would you trust an Alfa Romeo to get you there on time?