Follow that carriage! Sound familiar? This is the 17th century take on the expression that has been immortalised through chase scenes involving the nearest taxi – “Follow that car!”
That’s right. Taxi cabs have existed long before the motorised cars of today ever hit the streets. The original taxi was a horse-drawn carriage available for hire in both Paris and London during the 1600s. Called hackney carriages, these public-hire vehicles were initially run by innkeepers for visiting merchants and guests.
While those early taxi cabs did provide a much-needed service, it was to a small elite that could afford to foot the bill that comes with being ferried by two horses. And so rolled in the hansom cab – a smaller, faster carriage on two wheels that was light enough to be pulled by a single horse. The latter made the journey cheaper than travelling in a heavier, four-wheel coach.
Then came the birth of the modern, motorised car in 1886. It did take the taxi-cab industry quite a while catch on with the first gas-powered (and metred) ones only being introduced in 1897. Naturally so – being in the business of ferrying people, you want to make sure your vehicles meet safety criteria. We’re sure they thought, “Let the rest be guinea pigs.”
But once the coast was clear, the popularity of this newfound, motorised car gained speed – sometime in the early 20th century – and proliferated throughout the world. Sho’t left, South Africa…here in SA, we have two kinds of taxis – metred taxi cabs and minibus taxis.
When hiring a taxi, it is generally accepted to hail one using an arm or hand signal to get the driver’s attention. Alternatively, they can be hired at a taxi rank (at airports, train stations hotels, etc) or called for through a central dispatch.