It's actually against the rules for cab drivers to use cell phones while driving—even hands-free. But the restriction is routinely shrugged off, so yesterday the Taxi and Limousine Commission Thursday unanimously approved more severe penalties for scofflaws. Hacks who yak will now face fines, a 30-day suspension for two violations and loss of license for three violations in 15 months. The previous rule, passed in 1999, only banned talking on cellphones, but the new restrictions also ban the use of any technology capable of making non-emergency phone calls or texting.
Yesterday the TLC also announced a Request for Proposals for the "Taxi of Tomorrow" project, whose mission is to upgrade its existing taxi fleet with a uniform design for all taxicabs. There are currently 16 makes, none of which were designed by the original manufacturers as taxis, but by 2014, the TLC expects to impose complete uniformity on its fleet. So they're seeking "a highly-qualified original equipment manufacturer... to bring our vision of the next generation of taxicab to fruition."
Among other things, the TLC wants an "iconic design," minimized environmental impact, "universal accessibility for all users with a goal of meeting ADA guidelines," and a smaller size that also has more leg room. There are 13,237 cabs on the road today, but the winning company will be asked to build 26,500, and will have the right to exclusively provide the taxicab for a full ten years. Think you've got what it takes? Check out the Taxi of Tomorrow website. But whatever design you come up with, please make sure we can still turn off those TV screens.