A taxi, also known as a taxicab or simply a cab, is a type of vehicle for hire with a driver, used by a single passenger or small group of passengers, often for a non-shared ride. A taxicab conveys passengers between locations of their choice. This differs from public transport where the pick-up and drop-off locations are decided by the service provider, not by the customers, although demand responsive transport and share taxis provide a hybrid bus/taxi mode.
Although types of vehicles and methods of regulation, hiring, dispatching, and negotiating payment differ significantly from country to country, many common characteristics exist. Disputes over whether ridesharing companies should be regulated as taxicabs resulted in some jurisdictions creating new regulations for these services.
The word taxicab is a compound word formed as a contraction of taximeter and cabriolet. Taximeter is an adaptation of the German word Taxameter, which is itself a variant of the earlier German word Taxanom. Taxe /ˈtaksə/ is a German word meaning \"tax\", \"charge\", or \"scale of charges\". The Medieval Latin word taxa also means tax or charge. Taxi may ultimately be attributed to Ancient Greek τάξις from τάσσω meaning \"to place in a certain order,\" as in commanding an orderly battle line, or in ordaining the payment of taxes, to the extent that ταξίδι (taxidi), meaning \"journey\" in Modern Greek, initially denoted an orderly military march or campaign. Meter is from the Greek μέτρον (metron) meaning \"measure.\" A cabriolet is a type of horse-drawn carriage; the word comes from French cabrioler (\"to leap, caper\"), from Italian capriolare (\"to somersault\"), from Latin capreolus (\"roebuck\", \"wild goat\"). In most European languages that word has taken on the meaning of a convertible car.
Harry Nathaniel Allen of The New York Taxicab Company, who imported the first 600 gas-powered New York City taxicabs from France in 1907, borrowed the word \"taxicab\" from London, where the word was in use by early 1907.
Horse-drawn for-hire hackney carriage services began operating in both Paris and London in the early 17th century. The first documented public hackney coach service for hire was in London in 1605. In 1625 carriages were made available for hire from innkeepers in London and the first taxi rank appeared on the Strand outside the Maypole Inn in 1636. In 1635 the Hackney Carriage Act was passed by Parliament to legalise horse-drawn carriages for hire. Coaches were hired out by innkeepers to merchants and visitors. A further \"Ordinance for the Regulation of Hackney-Coachmen in London and the places adjacent\" was approved by Parliament in 1654 and the first hackney-carriage licences were issued in 1662.
Electric battery-powered taxis became available at the end of the 19th century. In London, Walter Bersey designed a fleet of such cabs and introduced them to the streets of London on 19 August 1897. They were soon nicknamed 'Hummingbirds' due to the idiosyncratic humming noise they made. In the same year in New York City, the Samuel's Electric Carriage and Wagon Company began running 12 electric hansom cabs. The company ran until 1898 with up to 62 cabs operating until it was reformed by its financiers to form the Electric Vehicle Company.
Taxicabs proliferated around the world in the early 20th century. The first major innovation after the invention of the taximeter occurred in the late 1940s, when two-way radios first appeared in taxicabs. Radios enabled taxicabs and dispatch offices to communicate and serve customers more efficiently than previous methods, such as using callboxes. The next major innovation occurred in the 1980s when computer assisted dispatching was first introduced.
Paris taxis played a memorable part in the French victory at First Battle of the Marne in the First World War. On 7 September 1914, the Military Governor of Paris, Joseph Gallieni, gathered about six hundred taxicabs at Les Invalides in central Paris to carry soldiers to the front at Nanteuil-le Haudouin, fifty kilometers away. Within twenty-four hours about six thousand soldiers and officers were moved to the front. Each taxi carried five soldiers, four in the back and one next to the driver. Only the back lights of the taxis were lit; the drivers were instructed to follow the lights of the taxi ahead. The Germans were surprised and were pushed back by the French and British armies. Most of the taxis were demobilized on 8 September but some remained longer to carry the wounded and refugees. The taxis, following city regulations, dutifully ran their meters. The French treasury reimbursed the total fare of 70,012 francs. The military impact of the soldiers moved by taxi was small in the huge scale of the Battle of the Marne, but the effect on French morale was enormous; it became the symbol of the solidarity between the French army and citizens. It was also the first recorded large-scale use of motorized infantry in battle.
Taxi services are typically provided by automobiles, but in some countries various human-powered vehicles, (such as the rickshaw or pedicab) and animal-powered vehicles (such as the Hansom cab) or even boats (such as water taxies or gondolas) are also used or have been used historically. In Western Europe, Bissau, and to an extent, Australia, it is not uncommon for expensive cars such as Mercedes-Benz to be the taxicab of choice. Often this decision is based upon the perceived reliability of, and warranty offered with these vehicles. These taxi-service vehicles are almost always equipped with four-cylinder turbodiesel engines and relatively low levels of equipment, and are not considered luxury cars. This has changed though in countries such as Denmark, where tax regulation makes it profitable to sell the vehicles after a few years of service, which requires the cars to be well equipped and kept in good condition.
In recent years, some companies have been adding specially modified vehicles capable of transporting wheelchair-using passengers to their fleets. Such taxicabs are variously called accessible taxis, wheelchair- or wheelchair-accessible taxicabs, modified taxicabs, or \"maxicabs\".
Wheelchair taxicabs are most often specially modified vans or minivans. Wheelchair-using passengers are loaded, with the help of the driver, via a lift or, more commonly, a ramp, at the rear of the vehicle. This feature is however a subject for concern amongst Licensing Authorities who feel that the wheelchair passenger could not easily exit the vehicle in the event of accident damage to the rear door. The latest generation of accessible taxis features side loading with emergency egress possible from either of the 2 side doors as well as the rear. The wheelchair is secured using various systems, commonly including some type of belt and clip combination, or wheel locks. Some wheelchair taxicabs are capable of transporting only one wheelchair-using passenger at a time, and can usually accommodate 4 to 6 additional non-disabled passengers.
Wheelchair taxicabs are part of the regular fleet in most cases, and so are not reserved exclusively for the use of wheelchair users. They are often used by non-disabled people who need to transport luggage, small items of furniture, animals, and other items. Because of this, and since only a small percentage of the average fleet is modified, wheelchair users must often wait for significantly longer periods when calling for a cab, and flagging a modified taxicab on the street is much more difficult.
Taxicabs in less developed places can be a completely different experience, such as the antique French cars typically found in Cairo. However, starting in March 2006, newer modern taxicabs entered the service operated by various private companies. Taxicabs differ in other ways as well: London's black cabs have a large compartment beside the driver for storing bags, while many fleets of regular taxis also include wheelchair accessible taxicabs among their numbers (see above). Although taxicabs have traditionally been sedans, minivans, hatchbacks and even SUV taxicabs are becoming increasingly common. In many cities, limousines operate as well, usually in competition with taxicabs and at higher fares.
Recently, with growing concern for the environment, there have been solar powered taxicabs. On 20 April 2008, a \"solar taxi tour\" was launched that aimed to tour 15 countries in 18 months in a solar taxi that can reach speeds of 90 km/h with zero emission. The aim of the tour was to spread knowledge about environmental protection.
Passengers also commonly call a central dispatch office for taxis. In some jurisdictions, private hire vehicles can only be hired from the dispatch office, and must be assigned each fare by the office by radio or phone. Picking up passengers off the street in these areas can lead to suspension or revocation of the driver's taxi license, or even prosecution.
Passengers may also hire taxicabs via mobile apps. While not directly involving the call center, the taxis are still monitored by the dispatcher through GPS tracking. Many taxicab companies, including Gett, Easy Taxi, and GrabTaxi provide mobile apps.
When a customer calls for a taxi, a trip is dispatched by either radio or computer, via an in-vehicle mobile data terminal, to the most suitable cab. The most suitable cab may either be the one closest to the pick-up address (often determined by GPS coordinates nowadays) or the one that was the first to book into the \"zone\" surrounding the pickup address. Cabs are sometimes dispatched from their taxi stands; a call to \"Top of the 2\" means that the first cab in line at stand #2 is supposed to pick someone up.
In the United States, there is a Taxicab Radio Service with pairs assigned for this purpose. A taxi company can also be licensed in the Business Radio Service. Business frequencies in the UHF range are also