Taxis Over the Years: A Brief Overview Through the Last 400 Years

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We pretty much all take taxis for granted, right?

Unless you’re desperately trying to hail a taxi in the pouring rain at closing time, they’re fairly uninteresting!

However, the history of the humble taxi goes back years.

Equally, they have constantly moved and evolved with the times and even in this day and age, they still do.

Here’s a potted history of how they became what they are today.


Hackney Carriages

The earliest records of transport for hire goes back to the early 1600s when horse-drawn carriages in London were first available to book for rides.

These open-sided carriages were known as hackney carriages.

Whilst popularity with pedestrians in need of transport rose in the UK capital, European cities followed suit.

In the ensuing years, rules and regulations were put in place for hackney carriages and became more and more restrictive.

Moreover, before the end of the 17th Century, drivers, known as coachmen, needed a licence to practice.


Hansom Cab

In 1834 an alternative carriage was introduced. Although the hansom cab was smaller in size, it only needed one horse to operate.

Consequently, it was faster than its predecessor, the hackney carriage.

Moreover, this faster paced vehicle became popular across the world.

By the late 19th Century, they were widespread in cities across America, many based in New York.



The next generation of public hire vehicles was nicknamed ‘hummingbird’ due to the nature of the sound it made.

Whereas horses had powered previous carriages, the early 1900s brought the advent of noisier, battery powered taxicabs to London.

This new motorised option evolved into one which used a taximeter, from which the word ‘taxi’ was derived.

Although New York was quick to adopt hummingbirds, it was only around ten years later when they were superseded by the highly modern gas-powered engines of 1907.


Next Generation

As time passed, taxis developed quickly, alongside the technology that was made available at the time.

For instance, highly technical at the time was the two-way radio, introduced in 1948.

As such, it became more commonplace for companies to be able to communicate and plan how best to transport passengers.


Iconic Cabs

Probably the best-known cabs around the world belong to London and New York in equal measures.

Whilst the black, modern-day hackney carriage is synonymous with the UK’s capital city, the yellow cabs of New York are iconic.

It was in 1967 the city of New York declared all taxis should be yellow in order to make them easier to identify.


App Based Taxis

Modern-day technology has brought a new slant to the way in which people use taxis.

No longer do you have to consider whether or not to use dubious minicabs.

Equally, you’re given information on the fare, the car registration and how long the taxi will take to collect you.

Furthermore, there is now no need to have cash or negotiate tipping the driver, it’s all done on account and fares, too, are set in advance so there are no nasty surprises.

All in all, technological developments mean that with cabs booked via Apps such as Uber, convenience is the name of the game.


To learn more, get in touch with us today.


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