If you’re sick of dealing with rude New York City cab drivers, we’ve got some welcome news for you. Yesterday Mayor Bloomberg signed a contract with Google to start bringing Google’s patented driverless cars into the New York Taxi fleet. The mayor’s office said that there would be 5000 driverless cabs on New York City streets by 2014. The driverless vehicle, which first came onto our radar in 2010, has already been legalized for street-use in the state of Nevada and was just “driven” by a blind man through a Taco bell drive-thru. The driverless taxi cabs will be customized to meet the needs of busy New Yorkers, and each vehicle will come equipped with ATMs, food vending machines, and “better entertainment options” according to the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission.
NYC’s new fleet of 9,000 taxis will be dubbed the “Zipper” and each car in the Google squadron will be called a “Zippie”. The Zipper will actually need significantly fewer vehicles on the street than the nearly 13,000 yellow cabs currently prowling New York City streets city, because it is anticipated that the driverless cars will prove to be more efficient than vehicles with drivers, servicing clients an estimated 50% faster.
So how does it work? The Zipper model is similar to that of the yellow cab, and you can either hail a Zippie — which will be recognized by Google’s above-head-mounted super sensors as a signal to stop — use the Zippie Android app on your smartphone, or hit one of the over 50,000 giant red “+1″ buttons that will be placed around the city. Once you are in the vehicle you can either speak your destination into the Zippie’s “G-phone”, or G-chat your destination to the Zippie via your smart phone, from there the car will take you where you need to go. Foreign tourists don’t need to worry about mastering English; the G-phone currently recognizes over 80 different languages.
At the start of the program, only a limited number of Zippies will go to Brooklyn and Queens. Meaning, if you need to get to the other side of the river, don’t expect the royal treatment; it’s anticipated the ratio of Zippies willing to take passengers to the other boroughs will be about the same as today’s who just drive off when you ask for a ride to Bed-Stuy.
The good news? All Zippies will be electric-bio-fuel hybrids filled with sweet amenities that leave regular NYC Taxi cabs in the dust. Google will not only equip each Zippie with an ATM machine, but vending machines built into the front-seat-back-seat divider will dispense everything from mouthwash to mascara to condoms and even hot food like a NY slice. According to Google, the vending machine offers will change from day to night and season to season to accommodate different needs and tastes. And if you’ve ever been one to step into a regular NYC taxi cab only to be met with a funky smell, or disturbing unmentionables left on the seat, you’ll finally be able to sit in hygienic peace. The new Zippies will be self-sanitizing, turning up a 12 horsepower vacuum to suck up all that unsightliness as soon as passengers exits the car.
Speaking about the new project Mayor Bloomberg said, “New York City is the greatest city on earth and our transportation system needs to reflect that. If the ride is more fly, then more will buy!”
The new driverless taxi system is expected to save New York City money in the long term — as the vehicles will only be leased and not owned in a program similar to Google’s solar power system for homes. However, New Yorkers should expect to pay up to 20% more for a ride. But hey, at least you won’t have to tip your driver…