A taxicab, also known as a taxi or 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 other modes of public transport where 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.
There are four distinct forms of taxicab, which can be identified by slightly differing terms in different countries:
- Hackney carriages, also known as public hire, hailed or street taxis, licensed for hailing throughout communities
- Private hire vehicles, also known as minicabs or private hire taxis, licensed for pre-booking only
- Taxibuses, also come many variations throughout the developing countries as jitneys or jeepney, operating on pre-set routes typified by multiple stops and multiple independent passengers
- 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. Disputes over whether smartphone-based ride hailing services should be regulated as taxicabs has resulted in some jurisdictions creating a new classification called transportation network company.
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.