All hail the Hong Kong taxi

While New York City is famous for its big yellow taxis and London its black cabs, Hong Kong too has designer taxis in its transport system. Now, Fred Han of the School of Design at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, in Kowloon, has examined the characteristics of purpose-built taxis used exclusively in Hong Kong. His analysis takes a three-way perspective: from the passenger’s point of view, the driver’s experience and the environmental impact.

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated urban areas. Moreover, on a daily basis, residents and visitors make a total of more than 12 million passenger journeys on four types of public transport – rail, bus, ferry and taxi. Almost 1 million of those daily journeys are taxi rides in a mere 20,000 or so registered vehicles; that’s about 50 trips and 100 passengers per taxi each day.

Writing in the International Journal of Design Engineering, Han explains how his assessment of the operation of Hong Kong taxis as part of the wider public transportation system, reveals it to be unique but also points to suggestions for the next generation of vehicles. Additionally, he has carried out in-depth interviews with drivers and passengers who use two particular models of taxi, the Toyota Crown Comfort and the BYD e6, to identify the needs of those “stakeholders”. Importantly, he considers the putative environmental impact and how this should guide future design Hong Kong taxi design.

Han concludes that more legroom, greater luggage storage, wheelchair accessibility, safety partitioning and hygienic auto-opening doors should be included in the design of the next generation of Hong Kong taxi. Information screens and destination address input should be made available as well as clear taxi fare meters, particularly for passengers for whom the local language is a barrier. New York City’s success with its “Taxi of Tomorrow” initiative might provide a useful model for Hong Kong too, helping to serve the needs of drivers, passengers and the environment, suggests Han.

Han, F. (2015) ‘Characteristics of a purpose-built next-generation Hong Kong taxi’, Int. J. Design Engineering, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.1–21.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.