A Taxi of Tomorrow glass skyroof shattered on Monday night, sending shards of glass onto the passengers inside of it.
The Observer got a copy of an email from a Greater New York Taxi Association executive to Deputy TLC Commissioner Raymond Scanlon, which describes the incident:
“According to the driver, he heard a cracking noise - shortly thereafter two of the three passengers started complaining that glass was falling onto them from the roof of the car. The third passenger, a small child, was terrified. Fortunately and amazingly, no one was seriously injured.” The vehicle had been serviced by Nissan staff that same morning. No issues were found at that time.
The Greater New York Taxi Association (GNYTA) has been a major opponent of the Taxi Of Tomorrow program—Nissan won a 10-year contract with the city worth an estimated $1 billion to produce redesigned city taxis—filing three different lawsuits against the Taxi of Tomorrow program and successfully delaying production (which was supposed to have started in 2012).
GNYTA director Ethan Gerber railed against the glass ceilings to The Observer: "It was entirely foreseeable that putting glass roofs on cabs would put passengers and drivers at risk...Glass roofs are absurd in these conditions. Taxis are not tour busses. They are essential transportation that millions of New Yorkers rely on every day to get to where they need to go."
This isn't the only functionality problem to face the program: Nissan has been roundly criticized for not making the cabs more wheelchair-friendly, which led to Mayor de Blasio proposing a 30-cent taxi surcharge to help fund a smaller line of new handicap-friendly cabs.
Update: You can read the full email from Gerber to TLC Deputy Commissioner Raymond Scanlon below:
Dear Deputy Commissioner Scanlon: I’m writing to you in your capacity as head of the Safety & Emissions division of the Uniform Service Bureau. As I informed Chairperson Yoshi yesterday, there is an extremely troubling , dangerous and urgent situation presented by the Nissan NV200 - the TLC mandated “taxi of tomorrow”. Monday night, a glass panoramic roof on one of the vehicles began raining glass shards on passengers heads and ultimately collapsed.
Our investigation of this matter shows the following: this vehicle, (Medallion 2H47) is one of the test Nissan NV200 that Nissan is monitoring at the 521 West 21st Street, Inc. garage. It is closely monitored by Nissan - indeed, I am informed by the chief mechanic of the garage that Nissan engineers or representatives had recently examined the vehicle and were the last people to be involved in servicing it - indeed they did so that very day. The vehicle was driven by a TLC licensed driver, Mr. Pereira. According to the driver, he heard a cracking noise - shortly thereafter two of the three passengers started complaining that glass was falling from the roof of the car. The third passenger, a small child, was terrified. Fortunately and amazingly, no one was seriously injured. As you can see from the attached photographs it resulted in almost total collapse raining dangerous shards onto the passenger seats.
As you will recall, I and others predicted that the panoramic roof would present such issues. As a tort defense lawyer who has handled thousands of automobile cases, I was particularly concerned that the wear and tear on New York City Streets would pose problems with the integrity of a glass ceiling above passengers heads. These vehicles were mandated without a pilot program or proof that they would withstand the harsh New York City conditions, Now it appears that this fear is a reality that endangers the lives of drivers and passengers. This situation demands immediate remedy before a passenger or driver is seriously injured or killed.
I read that just this week both Nissan and Honda recalled many thousands of vehicles for faulty airbags - a problem that has resulted in deaths and which became increasingly apparent and catastrophic over several years. No passenger should have to die before the TLC takes action. This urgent situation must be addressed now. The Nissan NV200 cannot be allowed on the streets with glass roofs that can fall on passengers. It is beyond a safety issue - it is a moral issue. We cannot allow our drivers and passengers to be at risk or wait until a tragedy to take action.
As a fellow attorney, I know that the TLC has a very difficult situation here - having executed ten year agreements with Nissan before the vehicle was properly vetted. I know you will agree, however, that safety of passengers and drivers must trump that difficulty.