New York City officials recently mandated that all taxi cabs must average 25 mpg by 2012. The plan was to lessen the environmental impact of New York City’s 13,000 taxis, as well as 40,000 other for-hire vehicles, but the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission apparently forgot to concern itself with passenger safety.
The fight is over the bulletproof plastic partition, which is mandated by law in NYC and separates the drivers from their fares. The problem with it is the possible effect on airbags and other passive and active safety devices to rear seat passengers. Toyota and Honda have issued outright warnings against using their hybrid vehicles as commercial cabs. While Ford, General Motors and Nissan have refused to certify the crash worthiness of their hybrid taxis, modified with mandatory partitions. It seems that the partitions could somehow block or deflect side airbags, rear airbags and side curtain airbags. There is also the chance of injury from someone being thrown into the partition itself, their seat belt being used or not (and I don’t know anyone that wears a seatbelt in NYC taxis, do they even have them?).
The trouble doesn’t end there though. Automakers are also warning that hybrids were never designed for “heavy commercial use.” Who knows if the hybrids of today can handle the deft driving skills of a NYC taxi driver, as well as the not so great maintenance schedule the cars are on.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has yet to respond to the safety and longevity concerns, but does list several hybrid vehicles on its approved vehicle list for taxi use.