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New RCA Taxi Project Launched at London City Hall

Tomorrow's Taxi
By London for London

This design project rethinks the London Black Cab for the 21st century, and engages with Londoners to seek their views and understand their needs. It is based at the Royal College of Art in the Vehicle Design programme and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design’s Age & Ability Research Lab, aiming for production by 2016.

Working with Studio Hexagon and vehicle company Karsan based in Turkey, the brief is to produce an original, purpose-built vehicle that satisfies the requirements for both low emissions and the regulations associated with the London taxi whilst meeting the aspirations of drivers and passengers of all ages and abilities. The starting point was Concept V1, a prototype taxi with a large, airy interior that is lightweight in construction able to use a variety of power plants including full electric.

The current London cab is one of the few purpose-built taxis in the world but the design is over two decades old. It needs modernisation, fresh thinking, a new approach to interiors utilising advances in materials, construction techniques and technology. An inclusive design approach will be used to underpin the approach and produce a well-researched and validated solution.

Five key areas are being looked at: 

  1. The driver area (making it more comfortable and functional)
  2. Passenger environment (increasing flexibility and designing it for short journeys) 
  3. The driver interface (incorporating new technology) 
  4. Iconic look (important for drivers and tourists) 
  5. The door aperture (many travellers found access difficult).

Each of these areas will involve a series of iterative loops spanning literature review, people-centred research and idea generation to develop new ideas based working with taxi drivers and passengers. The taxi is the driver’s workspace where they spend long hours but the current driver environment does not provide the necessary comfort and amenities. In contrast, passengers only spend a short time in the cab and therefore have different physical, mental, visual and cognitive needs. Central to the study will be co-creation workshops and events with Londoners. 

Contact us at [email protected] if you are interested in being a part of the research.

RCA Project Directors and Principal Investigators:

Professor Dale Harrow, Vehicle Design Programme
Rama Gheerawo, The Helen Hamlyn Centre Design

RCA Research Team:
Merih Kunur, Senior Research Associate
Niels van Roij, Senior Research Associate

Dale Harrow
Professor Dale Harrow is Dean of the School of Design and head of its Vehicle Design programme, a global centre of excellence in automotive design education. With a near 100 per cent record in student transition to professional practice, Vehicle Design was shortlisted for the Queen’s Award for Excellence in Education. Harrow is an international opinion former, commentator and media persona on design and the automotive industry. He is an award-winning designer, academic leader and researcher. Always keen to raise the intellectual debate about vehicle design, Harrow has lectured internationally on the subject.

Rama Gheerawo
Rama Gheerawo is Deputy Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design. With over 16 years in the design industry, he is an expert in people-centred design thinking. He leads the Centre’s Age & Ability Research Lab, which creates practical design ideas to improve the lives of people of all ages and abilities. He is in demand as a keynote speaker internationally and writes, curates exhibitions and runs workshops for audiences that range from students to business executives. Knowledge transfer to business is central to his work, building on a track record of over 120 collaborative projects involving companies such as BlackBerry®, Samsung and Toyota. 

Merih Kunur
Merih Kunur is a designer, researcher and design consultant. He has an MPhil from RCA Vehicle Design and has since been working on inclusive transport and mobility projects at the Royal College of Art’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and in Vehicle Design. These include Mobilicity, Future Emergency Ambulances and Connections funded by Capoco, NHS National Patient Safety Agency and Intel. Mobilicity won the Michelin Challenge award at the Detroit Motor Show in 2006, and was later exhibited at the Science Museum. Merih conducts user research projects and workshops, and continues to lecture and write on mobility and transport issues.

Niels van Roij
Niels gained his BA at Design Academy Eindhoven. He graduated from Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Art in 2012. His degree project Inclusive Design Interior won the Age UK Award for Inclusive Design, the Lady Hamlyn Design Award, the Worshipful Company of Carmen Transport Design Award and was shortlisted for both the Pininfarina Design Competition and the Car Design News Interior Motives Design Awards. His project featured in the Futures Gallery exhibition at the London Transport Museum. Setting up his studio Niels has completed vehicle, product and research projects.

Project partners:

Karsan set its vision as 'Limitless Transportation Solutions' which aims to cover the commercial vehicle segment from LCV to HCV with multibrands as contractor, licencee and licensor. In order to enlarge the product portfolio, Karsan not only develops its own brand but also proactively proposes new derivatives for its contractors and licensors’’ products. Within the scope of this vision, Karsan is in the course of transforming from a 'production company' to an 'OEM'. Accordingly, Karsan is managing the whole of its automotive value chain through three different, but strategically partnered companies.

Hexagon Studio
Hexagon Studio has expertise at each step of the Product Development Value Chain and provides Design, Engineering, Project Management Support and Prototype Production services’ according to the customer needs. Hexagon Studio and Karsan Hexagon Studio is Turkey’s largest engineering & design centre. It gives services to the automotive, transport and defence industries covering the product development cycle. Its sister company Karsan, is the main vehicle manufacturer in Turkey and has produced cars for over 45 years, together with trucks and buses for third parties like Renault, Peugeot, Hyundai and Citroën.