NEW YORK -- In a meeting with automakers in January, New York City's Bloomberg administration pitched an ambitious idea to reinvent the taxi, one of the city's ubiquitous symbols.
The plan: Scrap the 16 car models that make up today's 13,000-cab fleet and create what city officials call the "taxi of tomorrow."
Make it "small on the outside but large on the inside," one city official said, and more fuel-efficient and easier to climb into.
It has to last for 150,000 potholed city miles. Paint it yellow, of course -- but above all, build an icon, something that could help city government market the essence of New York.
"We want people to be able to look at this cab and in a glance say, 'New York City,' a government official told the automakers, according to a meeting transcript.
At least four automakers submitted proposals in May to become the brand behind the new icon. Ford, Nissan and General Motors have delivered plans, said officials at those companies.
Karsan, a Turkish manufacturer of vans for Peugeot, also submitted plans. Vehicle Production Group, a Miami company financed in part by T. Boone Pickens, makes wheelchair-accessible vehicles and also wants its taxi approved. But it's unclear whether it has bid on the taxi of tomorrow. Vehicle Production Group also builds compressed natural gas refueling stations.
New York's Taxi & Limousine Commission and the automakers declined to discuss the proposals. But early details are emerging based on interviews with current and former city officials, industry executives and design consultants, as well as an analysis of the commission's original request for proposals. Decisions are expected later this year, and the first taxis of tomorrow are expected to hit the streets in 2014.
It's a one-design, winner-take-all proposition -- if, indeed, the limousine commission finds a design it likes.
Here are some of the ideas in play.