Taxis have been around since gladiators fought lions and Roman legions stormed around Europe taking over countries and building lots of walls. Their use has grown from their early beginnings, until now being an extremely shared sight around towns and cities across the globe. They provide a crucial part of the transportation infrastructure and a substantial income for geographically minded drivers.
The most important invention which instigated the birth of the taxicab was the first taximeter. In ancient Rome they came up with a mechanism where small balls were dropped from the back of the horse and cart, so that when the destination was reach, the driver could count how many balls had dropped and calculate how much was owed by the passenger.
Horse drawn carts and carriages, rickshaws and for a while electricity powered taxis were in shared use up until the end of the 19th century. The first petrol powered taxis appeared at the turn of the century and were the norm until recently. The invention of the two-way radio in the 1940s instigated a major speeding up in taxi use, as their use greatly improved the efficiency of taxi sets and the speed in which customers could be reached.
Nowadays, Yellow cabs in New York, the Black cabs in London and the auto-rickshaw (or Tuk-Tuk) found mostly in Asia, are all icons, used daily by thousands of commuters and are commonly meaningful figures in stories people bring back from trips around the globe.
The use of diesel engines in taxis is now the norm as this allows for a longer time between fill ups and generally a more efficient and longer lasting engine. A major plus for hard working taxis. Also, now that hybrid technology is becoming more and more viable, hybrid taxi cabs are tipped to be the next step forward. Their systems run on electricity at low speeds and when you put your foot down, the engine kicks in to raise speeding up. As taxis generally slide around town at cruising speed this method that they will save a lot of money on petrol.
Next time you order a taxi, think about how far this institution has come from the times when Julius Caesar ruled the civilized world. Their style, presence and idiosyncrasies are here to stay and we can only imagine where they will be in 100 years time. Hover Taxi anyone?