Thursday, 10 March 2011
Black Cabs : TX4 and Vito
Most people will recognise the taxi above as a London Black Cab. There's actually more than one shape, but they are similar enough and apart from the mixed colours of maroon, silver and occasionally white, they are still generically referred to as black cabs.
The thing is, it's all changing, and quite significantly.
Mercedes have designed a version of their van-car called the Vito which also meets the London cab specification. That includes the need for bits of high viz interior, ways to carry wheelchairs and other accessibility features and even a turning circle to allow Yuwees (U-Turns). They achieved the last point by adding a button that actually makes the rear wheels steer when turning around at less than 5 mph.
According to my recent taxi driver these replacements are selling well and have comfy driving areas and quiet reliable engines. It's just that they don't look like London taxis. They look more like minicabs or vans. Nothing against that well-known London company that drives corporates to the airport but, well, the London Cab is part of London branding.
I was leaving a meeting last week and needed a taxi. I couldn't help notice that the first two in the rank were both silver versions of the new type. I looked twice for the little white taxi driver number, in order to check that they were not minicabs. Not black and not taxi shaped. Now the small white oblong becomes the frame of reference.
Add that to the other recent night-time phenomenon where we're seeing official looking blue high visibility jacketed minicab touts outside some of the west end venues. I assume its legal, but wonder if its borderline?
It'll be an interesting period to see whether the makers of the more traditional shaped taxis figure out better engines, economy, driver comfort or whether Vito2 will have a more taxi shaped look, to stop the drift away of an iconic part of London.