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Toyota improves universal design taxicab for quicker wheelchair access

A driver paces an easier-to-install wheelchair ramp on an improved model of "JPN Taxi" taxicab in Nagoya's Nishi Ward in central Japan on Jan. 31, 2019. (Mainichi/Yoshinori Ogura)

NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor Corp. has announced that it will improve its "JPN Taxi" universal design taxicab to enable wheelchair users to get into the vehicle more quickly -- cutting the current maximum of around 20 minutes down to three minutes.

The improvements, unveiled on Feb. 4, involve redesigning the car's foldable wheelchair ramp and simplifying its installation process, while the taxi itself will be a new model with better functionality, according to the major carmaker.

The taxicab, first introduced in October 2017, has a spacious interior with a low floor and a high ceiling, and can accommodate a passenger in a wheelchair. The wheelchair user is ushered inside via a ramp placed on the car's side, with the help of the driver. But installing the ramp can currently take between 15 and 20 minutes and some wheelchair users have been turned away. More than 10,000 units of the model are in use by taxi companies across Japan.

For the units already sold, Toyota will from February begin providing a new ramp redesigned from tri-fold to double-fold, with improved fixings. A new model to be introduced in March will have an automatic sliding door that opens and shuts about 1.5 seconds faster than the current model.

A Toyota-organized training session will enable the driver to install the ramp in around three to four minutes, according to the company. A person in charge of the car's development commented, "We want to make a taxi that makes everyone smile."

Hitoshi Nakamura, 67, a wheelchair user living in Nagoya's Naka Ward was happy about the new model. Nakaumura submitted about 10,000 signatures from people requesting the model's improvement to Toyota in November last year. "I'm really thankful and can't wait to ride in the new one," he said.

(Japanese original by Yoshinori Ogura, Nagoya News Center)

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