The world’s first motorized taxi cab
Greiner’s horse-drawn cab and haulage company, which he soon re-named Daimler Motorized Cab Company, thus became the world’s first motorized taxi business. Nobody else had used the automobile, invented just ten years earlier, as a taxi cab before – even though Daimler had recommended the motorized carriage with four-speed belt transmission and upright two-cylinder engine (‘belt-driven car’) specifically for this purpose in 1896.
The world’s first motorized taxi cab hit the streets of Stuttgart in the early summer of 1897 and was granted a police permit for taxi operation in June.
For the first time, a heating system for the rear-seat passengers was installed in a passenger car. The counterpart to this exclusive equipment feature was the half-top above the rear passenger compartment, which could be opened in fine weather. At the passengers’ request, it was even possible to remove the entire landaulet superstructure with roof and doors, permitting taxi operation with the open-top Victoria bodywork.
70 kilometers a day
Greiner had to invest a lot of money: 5,530 marks was the price of the car with half-top and solid rubber tires. On top of this, he had to pay the rental for the taximeter. But the investment in the new technology paid off: driving his Daimler taxi, Greiner managed some 70 kilometers a day – clearly more than he could have covered with a horse-drawn cab. Acceptance among customers was enhanced by the fact that a motorized taxi was a completely new experience. The motorized taxi cab was considered to be smart and fast, and a journey on board this car promised excitement and quite a bit of a thrill. The passengers’ demand for the motorized taxi encouraged the haulage operator to invest in additional vehicles. By the year 1899, Greiner had taken delivery of a total of seven Daimler taxis.
The concept of the motorized taxi cab impressed not only customers but also competitors. A Mr. Dietz, an operator of horse-drawn cabs in Stuttgart, ordered two motorized taxis from Benz & Cie. in Mannheim. Their presentation turned out to be a spectacular event as Dietz succeeded in winning over Stuttgart’s Chief of Police to register the Benz cars in person. Before that, the cars had proved their capabilities by carrying six passengers from the valley of Stuttgart up the steep Weinsteige street to the suburb of Degerloch without a hitch.
From Stuttgart out into the world
From Stuttgart, the motorized taxi started out on its triumphant march around the world. After 1899, Daimler taxi fleets were set up first and foremost in large European cities. In Berlin, passengers were able to hail this modern means of transport in Friedrichstraße; Hamburg’s first motorized taxi cabs lined up along Jungfernstieg. Motorized taxi companies were founded in Paris, London, Vienna and other metropolises.
The media discussed the taxi with curiosity and attention. While some expressed their enthusiasm for the new technology, others had nothing but criticism for the motorized taxi cabs, saying that they caused accidents and made horses shy. In response, driving lessons for taxi drivers were offered. Many a former horse-drawn cab coachman went back to school to retrain as a driver of the new motorized vehicle.
During the first years of the 20th century, the number of motorized taxis in the large cities increased rapidly. Alongside the gasoline-engined cabs, there were numerous taxis with electric or hybrid drive. The latter included the Mercedes Mixte cars which were manufactured at the Daimler plant in the Viennese suburb of Neustadt, Austria.
The gasoline engine became widely accepted, however, and both DMG and Benz & Cie. recognized the great potential of taxi operators as a group of customers at a very early stage. Milestones in the development of taxis from Stuttgart were, for instance, the 8/38 hp Mercedes-Benz of 1927 and the Mercedes-Benz 260 D of 1936 – the first diesel-engined passenger car. With special taxi equipment packages, Mercedes-Benz continues to meet the needs of taxi drivers and operators to this very day.