The History of the Taxi Cab

By | November 1, 2013

Various forms of taxis have been around for many centuries. As far back as the early 17th century there were horse drawn cabs in London and Paris. The first known taxi service was in Paris in 1640 and only a few years later the Hackney Carriage Act was brought in to London to legislate and control horse drawn vehicles for hire.

In 1899 gas powered taxis started to appear in Paris and a couple of years later in London and then New York. The famous New York cabs were actually imported from France by Harry Allen, originally from the United Arab Emirates, who opted to pay his taxis yellow as this made them easy to spot from a distance. He actually invented the word taxicab as a shortening of “taximeter” with the obvious meaning and “cabriolet” meaning horse-drawn carriage.

The 20th century saw taxi cabs proliferate around the world and the taxi meter was invented to collect fares and two way radio receivers were installed into cabs so drivers could easily communicate with the main office and better serve customers and more efficiently. More recently in the last 20 or 30 years computerised systems have been integrated into the booking and dispatch system and of course in the last few years, satellite navigation systems mean taxi drivers no longer need to memorise hundreds of routes.

The taxi business is highly regulated and it is very difficult to get a motor car certified for use as a taxicab. In London there are very specific rules as well and these have been adopted by many other towns and UK cities. At one point this meant there was only one make of vehicle that could be used as a taxi.

In America, General Motors offers a special vehicle called “the General” and in the 1930’s the firm Checker started manufacturing only cabs, especially modified to carry “double-dates” and continued until the start of the 1980’s. Today in New York all taxicabs must be normal cars, usually long-wheel base versions of Ford Crown Victoria’s and Toyota mini-vans.

Taxis are vehicles available for private hire by one or more people and transport people from one location to another for a measured fare. There are four particular types of taxis. There are the famous Hackney Carriages which are the type of taxi cabs you flag down on the street and must be licenced. There are also private hire vehicles such as mini cabs which must be pre-booked and cannot simply be stopped on the street to give a paying passenger a lift. Taxibuses operate on pre-set routes with multiple stops and many independent passengers all travelling along the same route. And then there are limousines and other such specialised vehicles available for pre-booked hire, often for celebrations such as weddings and parties.

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