A taxicab, also taxi or cab, is a type of vehicle for hire, with a driver, for a single passenger, or small group of passengers, typically for a non-shared ride. A taxicab conveys passengers between locations of their choice. In modes of public transport, the pick-up and drop-off locations are determined by the service provider, not by the passenger, although demand responsive transport and share taxis provide a hybrid bus/taxi mode.
Four distinct forms of 'taxicab' can be identified, by slightly differing terms in different countries: Hackney Carriage, also known as public hire, hailed or street taxis, available for hire and reward and for hailing on street; Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs), also known as minicabs; Private Hire Taxis, available by pre-booking, not (legally) available for hailing on street; Taxibuses, also known as Jitneys, operating on pre-set routes for hire and reward, typified by multiple stops and multiple independent passengers; and Limousines, specialized vehicle licensed for operation by pre-booking.
Although types of vehicles and methods of regulation, hiring, dispatching, and negotiating payment differ significantly from country to country, many common characteristics exist.
Harry Nathaniel Allen of The New York Taxicab Co., who imported the first 600 gas-powered New York taxicabs from France, coined the word taxicab as a contraction of taximeter cab. In time, the shortened term, taxi, came into common usage. Cab is an abbreviation of cabriolet, a type of horse-drawn carriage. In Britain, the word taxicab is rarely used. In the U.K., taximeter cab was shortened to taxi and cab, and these were and are used separately to distinguish between type of service and/or type of vehicle. In this article, taxicab appears throughout.
In turn, taximeter is an adaptation of the French word taximètre, which is a derivation of the German word taxameter, coined from Medieval Latin taxa, which means tax/charge, together with meter from the Greek metron (μέτρον) meaning measure.
Taximeters existed in ancient Rome, where they employed a mechanism that used the turning of the cart's axle to release small balls. At the end of the trip, the passenger paid based on the number of released balls. The modern taximeter was invented by German Wilhelm Bruhn in 1891, and the Daimler Victoria—the world's first meter-equipped (and gasoline-powered) taxicab—was built by Gottlieb Daimler in 1897.
Taximeters were originally mechanical and mounted outside the cab, above the driver's side front wheel. Meters were soon relocated inside the taxi, and in the 1980s electronic meters were introduced, doing away with the once-familiar ticking sound of the meter's timing mechanism.
In some locations, taxicabs display a small illuminated sign indicating if they are free. In Argentina, this sign is called a "banderita" (little flag), a carryover term from the days of mechanical taximeters, in which a little flag was turned to wind up the mechanism. The flag would be hidden at the start of a trip and moved to the visible position at the end.
Horse-drawn for-hire hackney carriage services began operating in both Paris and London in the early 17th century. The first documented service was started by Nicolas Sauvage in Paris in 1640. His vehicles were known as fiacres, as the main vehicle depot apparently was opposite a shrine to Saint Fiacre. (The term fiacre is still used in French to describe a horse-drawn vehicle for hire, while the German term Fiaker is used, especially in Austria, to refer to the same thing). In London the Hackney Carriage Act (1635) became the first legislated control in English on vehicles for hire. In the 19th century, Hansom cabs largely replaced the older designs because of their improved speed and safety.
Although battery-powered vehicles enjoyed a brief success in Paris, London, and New York in the 1890s, the 1891 invention by German Wilhelm Bruhn of the taximeter (the familiar mechanical and now often electronic device that calculates the fare in most taxicabs) ushered in the modern taxi. The first modern meter-equipped taxicab was the Daimler Victoria, built by Gottlieb Daimler in 1897. The first modern taxi company was opened by Friedrich Greiner and began operating in Stuttgart the same year.
Gasoline-powered taxicabs began operating in Paris in 1899, in London in 1903, and in New York in 1907. The New York taxicabs were imported from France by Harry N. Allen. Allen was the first person to paint his taxicabs yellow, after learning that yellow is the colour most easily seen from a distance.
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.
There has generally been a legal struggle concerning the certification of motor vehicles to be taxicabs, which take much more wear than a private car does. In London, they were additionally required to meet stringent specifications (Metropolitan Conditions of Fitness - MCF), adopted in entirety by a number of other large UK cities (including Glasgow and Edinburgh), for example, as concerns turn radius, which resulted for a time in having only one make legally usable. In the US, in the 1930s, the cabs were often DeSotos or Packards. General Motors offered a specialized vehicle for a time, named the General. The firm Checker came into existence then, and stopped manufacturing cabs in the early 1980s. Its cars were specially built to carry "double dates." But now New York City requires that all taxicabs be ordinary cars. They are mainly long-wheelbase versions of the Ford Crown Victoria. Toyota Sienna minivans are the alternate vehicle of choice in New York's cab fleet. In the 1960s in Europe, Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot offered diesel taxicabs. This form of engine is now the norm in Europe due to its superior fuel economy, torque and reliability.
Taxi service is typically provided by automobiles, but various human-powered vehicles, (such as the rickshaw) 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 make 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 Mexico, Mexico City's ubiquitous VW Type 1 (Beetle) cabs were green and white (being firstly yellow) by law until early 2003. No VWs are coloured this way anymore. Matchbox released a scale model of the VW taxi in 2004, numbered 31, also known as a bocho. However, the two-door Volkswagens had been displaced by more suitable four-door sedans, the Nissan Tsuru, a Sentra MkIII (B13) based saloon and recognized for their red/white (or silver) body colour. Other taxis can range from Fords to Mercedes-Benzes. There are also many taxicab bus models known as peseros as the original taxi service began in Mexico City charged only one peso.
In Spain, the most common taxi cars in Spain are SEAT Toledos, Skoda Octavias, Peugeot 406es and Volkswagen Jettas. You may also find MPV models such as Fiat Ulysses, SEAT Altea XLs or Kia Carnivals which are sometimes also adapted to carry wheelchair passengers.
In Norway, many taxicabs are Mercedes E-classes (usually E-220 CDIs) or Volvo V70s. These cars are almost always equipped with diesel engines, automatic transmissions, satellite navigation, and high quality trim levels.
Traditionally in Australia, taxicabs are mainly Ford Falcons. Due to the low price, Kia Carnivals are becoming increasingly popular as well. There are premium operators who mainly operate on Ford Fairlanes and Holden Statesmans. Almost all Australian taxicabs run on liquefied petroleum gas. More recently, the Chrysler 300C Turbo Diesel and BMW 5-series diesel have been introduced to replace the phased out Fairlane. Toyota Priuses are also used in metropolitan areas. There are also "Maxi Taxis" which mostly are for-hire minibuses. Toyota Hiaces, Volkswagen Multivans and Mercedes-Benz Vitos are typically used.
In New Zealand, similarly to Australia, Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons have been the traditional taxicab of choice. However, in the last decade a move has been made towards large front wheel drive V6 models such as Toyota Avalons, Nissan Maximas and Toyota Camries. At the other end of the scale, used examples of Mercedes-Benz S-Classes and BMW 5 Series are becoming popular for more upmarket companies, along with the traditional "Corporate cabs" such as Ford Fairlanes and Holden Statesmans.
In the United Kingdom a current debate exists as to the most appropriate vehicles to be licensed as taxis. Local authorities split between those which adopt the Metropolitan Conditions of Fitness, which are widely interpreted to require London style Black taxis, and those which allow a wider range of vehicles. The debate is informed, but not solved, by a desire to implement accessible taxis, defined and required under the Disability Discrimination Act (1985), but not enforced in all authority areas. UK devolved administrations (Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales) have devolved responsibilities for taxi licensing law (but not for application, which is enforced at a local authority level). Scotland can, but chooses not to, determine a national vehicle standard. Northern Ireland, which operates as a single authority under the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, operates a four vehicle structure.
In Singapore, Toyota Comforts (rebadged as Crowns) and Hyundai Sonatas are most common, while there are also Nissan Cedrics, Toyota Coronas, Volkswagen Tourans, Mercedes-Benz C-Classes, Honda Airwaves, Toyota Wishes, Skoda Superbs and brand new LPG Toyota Priuses to conserve fuel. Taxis are the main cause to the majority of accidents that happened, due to the carelessness and recklessness of the taxi drivers. See also 1
In India, taxis are not very common, however, the most common taxis are Maruti Omnis, Tata Indicas and Hindustan Ambassadors. Small LPG auto-rickshaws are most commonly used. Recently Toyota Innovas are very common and Toyota Corollas for more of a luxurious ride.
In Trinidad and Tobago the vehicles most commonly used as taxis are fifth generation Nissan Cedrics, fifth and sixth generation Nissan Laurels, 6th to 8th generation Toyota Crowns and any other vehicles registered with an "H". However in Trinidad, many cars still operate as taxicabs even without being registered. These "illegal" taxicabs are called "PH" or "P/H" taxis due to the fact that private cars are registered with a "P" for example, "PAU 6767". Private taxi companies are scarce and expensive, hence all taxis in Trinidad are both driver managed and driver operated. These privately owned taxis vary in colour and model, therefore one would almost never see a "Yellow cab" in Trinidad and Tobago. Unlike Maxi taxis that are colour coded to a specific area, taxicabs are not colour coded.
Taxicabs in less developed places can be a completely different experience, such as the antique French cars typically found in Cairo. However starting 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 below). Although taxicabs have traditionally been sedans, minivan 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 April 20, 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.
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, and so on.
Wheelchair taxicabs are most often vans or minivans which have undergone special modifications. 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 Licensig 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 able-bodied 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 able-bodied 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.
These particular taxicabs have developed their own special names such as, 'Maxicabs'.
Originally, hackney carriage companies were distinguished from each other by their drivers' livery (uniforms) and by the colours of their carriages. For example, at the end of the 19th century in Paris, Compagnie Generale carriages were painted blue, while those of Abeille were painted green ("The Paris Cabman"). During the early years of the twentieth century, private cars were usually black because paints of other colours were not durable. Taxis were the exception, as they would be touched up or worn out. Around the world today, taxi companies are still distinguished by the way their cars are painted.
In the United States and Canada, many older taxi companies are named according to their paint schemes. Thus, "Yellow Cabs" are painted yellow, Checker taxis are a play on the car manufacturer's name (Checker Motors) and have a distinctive black-and-white or black-and-yellow checkerboard stripe around their bodies, "Blue and White Cabs" might have blue bodies and white roofs, and "Black Top" and "Red Top Cabs" have black and red roofs respectively. In the 1920s, a famous company named "Brown and White" lost a lawsuit to prevent other taxi drivers from painting their cars these colours. In 1960, New York City ordered that the city's taxis be painted yellow.
Some Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have taxis with their own custom colours, but Montreal-area taxis (mostly mid-size cars such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Toyota Camry) remain exactly the same car. In Honolulu, Hawaii, most taxis are luxury cars such as Lincoln Town Cars and Lexus ES350s and GX470s. These cars are left stock colored.
In Orange County, Florida, many of the taxicabs are painted orange.
Mexico City's ubiquitous VW Type 1 (Beetle) cabs were green and white (being firstly yellow) by law until early 2003. However, the tiny cars had been displaced by bigger four-door sedans, the Nissan Tsuru, a Sentra MkIII (B13) based saloon and recognized for their red/white (or silver) body colour. No VW are coloured this way anymore. Matchbox released a scale model of the VW taxi in 2004, numbered 31.
In Malaysia, most taxicabs have distinctive white and red liveries. In Kuala Lumpur, well established meter taxi companies with more than 1000 units have bright orange colour liveries with approval from the government. Private operating taxis must have distinctive white and red liveries only.
Kuala Lumpur is the only city in Malaysia with taxicabs extensively running on natural gas.
To hail a taxicab, you normally just wait on the street or go to locations called taxi stands. Taxicabs are referred to as taxis in Malaysia.
In Jakarta, BlueBird Taxis is a very well established meter taxis companies, with their own light blue colour liveries. Other Private companies operating taxis have their own distinctive liveries.
To hail a taxicab, you normally just wait on the street or go to a taxi stand.
Taxicabs are referred to as teksi in Indonesia and the most reliable in Jakarta is BlueBird TaxiCab.
In India, most taxicabs, especially those in Delhi and Mumbai, have distinctive black and yellow liveries with the bottom half painted black and upper half painted yellow. In Kolkatta, most taxis are painted yellow with a blue strip in the middle. Private companies operating taxis can have their own liveries but need to get them approved from the government. Taxis and all other commercial vehicles have a yellow number plate so charging taxes and toll in highways is easier for the officials. Delhi is the only city in India with taxicabs running only on Compressed Natural Gas. To hail a taxicab, you normally just wait on the street or go to locations called taxi stands. Taxicabs are referred to as taxis in India and the word cab is rarely used.
Taxicabs of Hong Kong have three colours based on service area: red with silver top for urban Hong Kong; green with white top for New Territories; and blue with white top for Lantau Island. The colours are to even out service between less densely populated areas and urban centres of the territory.
Most taxis in Hong Kong are Toyota Comfort (YXS10 series). This is a mid-size rear-wheel-drive model specially manufactured as commercial use 4-door sedan, and it is very durable. All taxis in Hong Kong are currently powered by LPG engines.
In Japan, taxicabs each have colours or designs based on the company. The majority of Japanese cars are white, silver or black. Some taxis adopt showy colours, such as green, red, and orange, to attract customers' attention.
Most Japanese taxis are one of three types of cars: the Toyota Comfort; Nissan Crew; and Nissan Cedric Y31. They all have automatic passenger doors, which open when a button is pressed by the driver. However, elite taxis may have drivers that manually open the door for the passenger.
Recently, some taxi companies have selected Toyota Crown S170 and/or S180 as taxis because cars made for use as taxis (such as Comfort, Crew and Cedric) have very plain interiors.
In Germany, taxicabs are beige, a look that was officially stipulated by law as Elfenbein a light ivory-colour in 1971. In 2005 this legal restriction was lifted, but most taxicab drivers associations and companies still prefer the unified look and visibility of beige. Most taxicabs in Germany are Mercedes.
In Greece taxicabs have variable colours, according to the city they are registered. For example, in Athens they are yellow (see: ). In all rural areas, they are usually silver-coloured. In other cities except Athens they have particular colours, such as blue (Thessaloniki),dark red (Patras) or dark green(Ioannina). Cars used as taxis are only 4-door sedans with great luggage space. The cars used most as taxis are Mercedes E-class, VW Passat, Skoda Octavia and Toyota Avensis. Most of them in urban areas are equipped with GPS navigation systems.
In Russia some companies are offering a 'luxury' taxi service where taxis are Maybachs and TechArt Magnums (tuned Porsche Cayennes) - but most cabs are operated by more 'conventional' brands, such as Ford Focus or Renault Kangoo in larger cities and Russian makes elsewhere. In cities, it is also traditionally possible to hail down private cars and negotiate a lift for an agreed price. This is usually quite safe (for locals), since a large proportion of car owners practice this as a steady source of additional income.
In Spain, each town and city designates the colour of their taxis, but in the overwhelming majority, it is white, usually with some kind of colour detail and/or local symbol on the doors. For example, in Madrid (and also in Almería), taxicabs are white with a red diagonal stripe going through the front doors; in Seville, they are white with a diagonal yellow stripe down the rear doors; in Bilbao, white with a horizontal red stripe on the front doors, etc. A notable exception is Barcelona, where taxicabs are fully black, except the doors and the boot lid, which are painted yellow. By far the most popular car models for taxicab duties, all around Spain, are the SEAT Toledo and the Škoda Octavia; other models that can also be found frequently are the Peugeot 406 (the 407 has only been very recently homologated for this function ), Volkswagen Jetta, SEAT Altea XL, Opel Vectra, Citroën C5, Toyota Avensis, some Mercedes-Benz E-Class, etc.
In Portugal, taxis were traditionally black with the upper half painted green. This was changed to a uniform beige colour in the 1990s, but in the 2000s many new taxis have gone back to the traditional livery. Mercedes C- and E-class are popular taxicab models.
In Scandinavia there is no particular colour for taxicabs. Various shades of black and silver are the most popular choices. The cars most use are Volvo S80/V70, Mercedes C- and E-class, Toyota Avensis, Škoda Octavia, VW Passat and VW Transporter/Caravelle bus and BMW 5 series. In Finland and Sweden taxis are equipped with GPS navigation and booking system.
In The Netherlands Taxicabs have no particular colour, though they seem to follow a certain fashion. For a while they tended to be dark/navy blue or black, a colour to which we appear to be returning after a period of Silver/middle grays and Anthracites. Not all cabs follow this fashion, and there is a wide range of other colours, including bright yellow, mostly seen on American models. The most common vehicles used as taxicabs are E-class, others include Škoda Octavia, VW Passat, VW Transporter/Caravelle, Chrysler 300C and Citroën C5. However many other cars can be found as cabs as well, ranging from several motorbikes and Smart ForTwo's to the ubiquitous London Cab, several American models such as the Ford Crown Victoria, Chevrolet and a few Lincoln Towncars and an increasing number of medium sized SUV's. Not all cabs have clear signs indicating their function, at least not always in the traditional sense. By law, all cabs have a license plate which has black letters on a lightblue background. The plates are a legal requirement for any car operating as a cab, which for this purpose is defined as being any chauffeur driven vehicle that can be hired, so this includes the limousines that you hire for opening nights and school proms. In cities such as Amsterdam there is an increasing amount of alternative personal public transport on offer, such as the Tuktuk, the cyclecab and the Amsterdam Watertaxi
Some taxis in Lisbon.
Taxis in Curitiba.
In Australia, livery is determined by state legislation. In Victoria, an all-yellow scheme is adopted. In contrast, in Queensland and New South Wales livery is dependent on which company is operating the dispatch system the taxi uses. In South Australia, most taxis are white. Taxis in Australia are most often Ford Falcons and Mercedes-Benz Vitos (as Maxicabs), other less common types of taxis in Australia are Holden Commodore, Holden Statesman, SsangYong Stavic, Toyota Avalon (Australian built model), Toyota Hiace and Toyota Prius. Most private taxi companies use Holden Caprices, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Chrysler 300C and the discontinued BA and BF Ford Fairlane.
Most places allow a Taxi to be "hailed" or "flagged" on the side of the street as it is approaching. Another option is a taxi stand (sometimes also called a "cab stand", "hack stand", "taxi rank" or "cab rank"). Taxi stands are usually located at airports, railway stations, major retail areas (malls), hotels and other places where a large number of passengers are likely to be found. In some places—Japan, for example—taxi stands are arranged according to the size of the taxis, so that large- and small-capacity cabs line up separately. The taxi at the front of the line, due (barring unusual circumstances) for the next fare.
In the United States, a nut is industry slang for the amount of money a driver has to pay upfront to lease a taxi for a specific period of time. Once that amount is collected in fare, the driver then begins to make a profit. A driver "on the nut" is trying to earn back the initial cost. This varies from city to city though, in Las Vegas, Nevada, all taxicabs are owned and operated by the companies and all drivers are employees (hence no initial cost and earn a percentage of each fare). So "on the nut" simply means to be next in a taxi stand to receive a passenger.
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.
Other areas may have a mix of the two systems, where drivers may respond to radio calls and also pick up street fares.
The activity of taxi fleets is usually monitored and controlled by a central office, which provides dispatching, accounting, and human resources services to one or more taxi companies. Taxi owners and drivers usually communicate with the dispatch office through either a 2-way radio or a computer terminal (called a mobile data terminal). Before the innovation of radio dispatch in the 1950s, taxi drivers would use a callbox—a special telephone at a taxi stand—to contact the dispatch office.
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 in to 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 offices using radio dispatch, taxi locations are often tracked using magnetic pegs on a "board"—a metal sheet with an engraved map of taxi zones. In computerized dispatch, the status of taxis is tracked by the computer system.
Taxi frequencies are generally licensed in duplex pairs. One frequency is used for the dispatcher to talk to the cabs, and a second frequency is used to the cabs to talk back. This means that the drivers generally cannot talk to each other. Some cabs have a CB radio in addition to the company radio so they can speak to each other.
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 licensed in pairs to allow for repeaters, though taxi companies usually use the pair for duplex communications.
Some companies don't operate their own radio system and instead subscribe to an Specialized Mobile Radio system. The conventional radios are most suited to companies that operate within the local area and have a high volume of radio traffic. The SMR is more commonly used by black car services that cover a wider area, and smaller companies who use less airtime and don't want to run their own radio systems. With the advent of Public Data Networks in the 1990s, operators are beginning to use PDAs and advanced mobile phones for dispatching and tracking functions in lieu of the traditional radio. Some small car services don't use a dispatcher at all. Instead the customers' calls are forwarded to the cell phones of whichever drivers are on duty at the time.
For the distance travelled, the fare for a taxi is usually higher than for other forms of public transport (bus, tram, metro, minicab, train, bike). The fare is not based on the number of people travelling together in a taxi unless it is a 'maxi-taxi' (which can carry up to 8 people). Another system is one where more than one customer shares the same taxi and fares are per person. Fares are usually calculated according to a combination of 4 elements: Tariff rate, Initial flagfall or meter drop, distance and waiting time. A taximeter calculates this automatically ("meter" for short and the origin of the word "taxi"). Instead of a metered fare, passengers sometimes pay a flat fare. In some areas, when demand is high—for instance, late at night—a taxi driver may pick up the customer offering the highest bid (this practice may be against the law).
Most experienced taxi drivers who have been working in the same city or region for a while would be expected to know the most important streets and places where their customers request to go. However, to aid the process of manual navigation and the taxi driver's memory (and the customer's as well at times) a cab driver is usually equipped with a detailed roadmap of the area in which they work. There is also an increasing use of GPS driven navigational systems in the more wealthy countries around the world.
In London, despite the complex and haphazard road layout, such aids have only recently been employed by a small number of 'black cab' taxi (as opposed to minicab) drivers. Instead, they are required to undergo a demanding process of learning and testing called The Knowledge. This typically takes around three years and equips them with a detailed command of 25,000 streets within central London, major routes outside this area, and all buildings and other destinations to which passengers may ask to be taken.
Taxicabs have been both criticized for creating pollution and also hailed as an environmentally responsible alternative to private car use. Because a typical taxi is always cruising the streets, either driving a passenger or looking for a new fare, individual taxicabs see high levels of use. In cities where taxicabs use fossil fuels, this can be a significant source of pollution. On the other hand, having taxis readily available in a city enables some residents to forgo ownership of a car altogether, especially if the city has multiple modes of public transportation available. Some cities, such as Hong Kong, have converted all taxicabs to compressed natural gas. Still other cities, such as Arlington, Virginia have developed street taxi stands so that drivers do not need to cruise the streets to find passengers.
Another concern is ambient pollution affecting the driver and passenger. A project, designed at understanding exposure to air pollution in an urban environment and looking at five transport methods for travelling across London, was carried out by a team from Imperial College London and the Health and Safety Laboratory, Buxton.
The results, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment in January 2006, showed that the level of pollution that people are exposed to differs according to the mode of transport that they use. The most risky method of transport was the back seat of a taxicab, followed by travelling by bus, cycling, walking, with a private car exposing people to the lowest amount of pollution.
In Australia, nearly all taxis run on LPG, as well as the growing fleet of hybrids. Argentina and the main cities of Brazil have large fleets of taxis running on natural gas. Many Brazilian taxis are flexible-fuel vehicles running on sugarcane ethanol, and some are equipped to run on either natural gas or as a flex-fuel. At least two Brazilian car markers sell these type of bi-fuel vehicles.
San Francisco became in 2005 one of the first cities to introduce hybrids for taxi service, with a fleet of 15 Ford Escape Hybrids. By 2009 hybrids represent 14% of its taxi fleet, and the original Escape Hybrids were retired after 300,000 miles per vehicle. In 2009 15% of New York's 13,237 taxis in service are hybrids, the most in any city in North America, and also began retiring its original hybrid fleet after 300,000 and 350,00 miles per vehicle.
Chicago is following New York City's lead by proposing a mandate for Chicago's entire fleet of 6,700 taxicabs to become hybrid by 1 January 2014. As of 2008 Chicago's fleet had only 50 hybrid taxicabs. In 2008 Boston mandated that its entire taxi fleet must be converted to hybrids by 2015. Arlington, Virginia also has a small fleet of 85 environmentally friendly hybrid cabs. The green taxi expansion is part of a county campaign known as Fresh AIRE, or Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions.
Hybrid taxis are becoming more and more common in Canada, with all new taxis in British Columbia being hybrids, or other fuel efficient vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius or Toyota Corolla. Hybrids such as the Ford Escape Hybrid are slowly being added to the taxicab fleet in Mexico City.
Most taxi markets are heavily controlled, particularly by price regulations and entry restrictions. Several justifications for regulation cite customer safety and satisfaction. Many economists believe, however, that regulation has come at the behest of existing taxi firms that, with reduced competition, can raise prices and capture larger profits. There are now 1400 fewer permits in New York City since taxi regulation became prominent during the Great Depression. This is contrary to greater customer satisfaction. High levels of competition keep prices lower and give taxi drivers the incentive to treat customers with more care.
The majority of economists agree taxi deregulation would be beneficial in making existing markets more efficient. In instances where deregulation does not provide significant improvements, they often point out that deregulation has been quite limited.
Established in 1917, the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) is a non-profit trade association of and for the private passenger transportation industry. The membership spans the globe to include 1,100 taxicab companies, executive sedan and limousine services, airport shuttle fleets, non-emergency medical transportation companies, and paratransit services.