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The Taxi Service

New Era CEO Ejaz Shah

By Ejaz Shah  —  7th September 2020

The name “taxi” is a shortened abbreviation of the word “taxicab” which was first documented in March of 1907 in London. Two words: “taximeter” and “cabriolet” are the origins of the word “taxicab”.  The word taximeter was invented in 1891, which was and is used to record distances and calculate the fare.  The word Cabriolet refers to a horse drawn carriage where the driver stands in the back of the carriage. But if you indulge further the name “taximeter” itself is derived from the Mid-Latin “taxa”, meaning “tax or charge”.

Recently I was reminiscing about old times and how far things have come since I was a child.

You’ve probably not heard of the good old Datsun; it was a car manufactured by Nissan and they phased the range out in 1986. My father had it in the colour brown, an unexciting, unalluring, nothing-special-about-it brown car but I loved it. I can still picture myself, glued to my window, nose pinned hard against it, waiting for my father to turn the corner into our street. My timing was always on point, the second I would see him turn in, I would race out of my bedroom, down my stairs, out the front door and on to the street. By the time my father pulled in outside our house, I would be waiting. He couldn’t – wouldn’t – refuse, and off we would go for our daily ‘rides’ in dad’s car. I loved every second of those rides.

My father went on to have many cars, after the Datsun, the other cars that had an impact on me, were my father’s taxis. My father’s first taxi was a black and white, C reg, Vauxhall Cavalier. Although the car was his pride and joy, he always dreamt of owning an ‘actual’ taxi, the famous London black cab. He worked hard and a few years later, he finally fulfilled that dream of owning his very own London Black cab – only he didn’t drive it in London, and it wasn’t black!! My father bought it in maroon and spent every spare second he had polishing it!! I really do believe it was his one true love (sorry mum!).

The taxi industry has come very far since my father’s days and so have the actual taxis. The other day when I had a few spare minutes I decided to plunge into the history of the taxi and see how it has developed over the years. I find these evolution stories fascinating and I share here with you some key points of the evolution of the taxi and its industry:

Brief Taxi History

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The world’s first dedicated taxi was built by a Mr Gottlieb Daimler in 1897. It came equipped with the newly invented taxi meter and was named Damiler Victoria. In the same year, Mr Friedrich Greiner, an entrepreneur from Stuttgart, Germany, took the Damiler Victoria taxis and started the world’s first motorized taxi company.

Before this and even some years after this, horse-drawn carriages, or ‘horse cab drivers’ were still used across the world, from Paris to London and New York. However, by the end of the 19th century the new motorised taxis were taking over. 

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The world’s first dedicated taxi was built by a Mr Gottlieb Daimler in 1897. It came equipped with the newly invented taxi meter and was named Damiler Victoria. In the same year, Mr Friedrich Greiner, an entrepreneur from Stuttgart, Germany, took the Damiler Victoria taxis and started the world’s first motorized taxi company.

Before this and even some years after this, horse-drawn carriages, or ‘horse cab drivers’ were still used across the world, from Paris to London and New York. However, by the end of the 19th century the new motorised taxis were taking over. 

In London, ‘Hummingbirds’ had taken over the roads. Walter Bersey, a British electrical engineer, had designed a fleet of electric battery-powered taxis which when driven, would make a humming noise, and so came the aptly given nickname.

Across the pond...

Developments were occurring in America too, where the New York taxicabs were initially imported from France. In time they were domestically manufactured, with the first domestically produced Taxicab built in 1908, designed by Fred E. Moskovics. Mr Moskovics went on to play a key part in organising the first Yellow Taxicab in New York and the famous yellow colour of the New York cab. You know that saying, ‘behind every successful man is a woman,’ well this definitely deserves a shout out. It was the wife of the owner of the manufacturing company that suggested the taxicabs be painted yellow so that they would stand out!

The popularity of taxis and their development intensified in the early 20th century. In the 1940s, two-way radios were introduced in taxis, so that taxi drivers and dispatchers could communicate. And in the 1980s, ‘computer assisted dispatching’ was first introduced. Yes the 1980s, but that’s a subject for another blog.

Taxis in Pakistan

But what about Pakistan, I hear you ask? Well in my research I found the earliest form of something similar to a taxi was the rickshaw. It was the Chinese that introduced it in India to transport goods initially and then from 1914, they were used to transport people. However, the rickshaw wasn’t how we know it today. Rickshaws were human drawn, can you imagine the sheer effort needed for that?! But they were hugely popular, especially as a job opportunity for the hundreds and thousands that were migrating from small villages to the big cities.

However, in the 1960s, these human drawn rickshaws were outlawed by the Pakistani government. By this time, they had already become less popular. The new auto rickshaws were all the rage. Nowadays, we have the ‘chand gari’ or ‘Chingchi/Chingchee’ motorcycle rickshaws and the Piaggo manufactured autorickshaws. All still hugely popular modes of transport used around Pakistan. Well used around most of Pakistan, it wasn’t until I moved to Islamabad that I was made aware of the fact – much to the disappointment of my daughters – that rickshaws are banned in this city!

Of course, there are numerous privately run services across Pakistan, consisting of cars and minibuses, majorly run by Uber! But in the larger cities yellow taxis are common, and similar to their contemporaries across the world, they are designed with a meter. 

New Era taxi rickshaw

How far we have come...

From my ‘personal childhood taxi’ – my father’s old Datsun, to his London Black Cab and to where we stand now with Uber….

It’s incredible to look back and see the development of such a hugely used mode of transport. I find that in life we get used to our day to day routine and get caught up in our daily plights that we don’t realise how far we have come, until we decide to take a moment out and reminisce about our past.

I hope you found the information I have provided above as interesting as I did. I’d love to hear from you and your stories of childhood, your first family car, the most unique form of ‘taxi’/transport you have used and do let me know of any key points from the history of taxis that I may have missed out. I am eager to hear and learn from you all, so please do comment below.

And if you would like to join an evolutionary business, that aims to thrive in its field – whilst sharing interesting facts and stories – go over to our main page for more information on NewEra and register your interest with us today. Welcome!

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