Where and How Did the Taxi Start

The history of the taxi goes back as far as ancient Rome. In Roman society there were a variety of human-powered vehicles serving as taxis. I

n modern times, the industry greatly benefited from the invention of the taximeter. Designed in 1891 by Wilhelm Bruhn, this was the first device to help the taxi driver keep track of the fare. Its invention coincided with the advent of the automobile; the first versions of the taximeter were mounted to the outside of the vehicle, rather than on the dashboard as passengers have come to expect today.

The first motorized vehicles to serve as taxicabs were the Daimler Victoria built by Gottlieb Daimler. Soon these gas-powered taxis had a taxi meter installed on the inside of the car. The first taxis were chosen not for their durability (as are many taxis today) but for their turn radius. Because a cab driver often has to manuever in tight or unfamiliar areas, this was of great concern to the first taxi drivers. The first automobiles to offer a tight turn radius were the Packard and the De Soto. Next, The 'General' by General Motors had its turn as a taxicab.

A vehicle serving as a taxicab typically endures a great deal more “wear and tear” than a privately owned vehicle, which can impact the safety of both the driver and the passenger. For this reason in the US very strict guidelines were developed for taxis, including the vehicle itself, standards for mechanical upkeep, and qualifications to become a taxi driver.

Checker came on the scene in 1956, manufacturing their signature taxicabs until 1982. During this time, the bright yellow Checker cab color became synonymous with taxis everywhere. Now, this style has been relegated to nostalgia, though many people still visualize the old style Checker cabs when thinking about taxis. Among the many innovations first introduced by Checker cab was "double date" seating, with two seats facing each other in the back of the cab. This seating was mirrored in other luxury vehicles such as limos and the Rolls Royce. Checker cabs stopped being built in 1982 but the Checker cab franchise still thrives to this day.

In 1980, the old taxi meter, with a ticking sound that even today would be familiar to most frequent taxi riders, began to be replaced with electronic ones. Other major innovations in the last decades of the twentieth century included 2-way radios, enabling taxi services to serve passengers more efficiently. Soon came the use of computers, making the dispatching of taxis even more streamlined.

Today, vehicles sold as taxi cabs tend to be minivans seating as many as six passengers. Perhaps the most famous taxi on the streets in 2011 is the one on the TV game show “Cash Cab”. The taxi on the show has a ceiling that lights up like a disco with the customer climbs into the cab. Passengers are asked trivia questions to win money en route to their destination. If you are ever in New York City and are looking for an unusual taxi ride experience, call a cab and try your luck to see if you're picked up in the Cash Cab.