A taximeter is used in a taxi cab to calculate how much the passengers owe the driver based on how far the cab traveled and how long it took. The device, usually electronic, sits on the dash inside the taxi cab and the driver starts it at the beginning of a trip. Upon reaching the destination, the driver consults the meter to see how much to charge the customer.
Wilhelm Bruhn invented the first taximeters in 1891. These taximeters were mechanically powered and attached to the outside of the taxicab. As the car drove, the taximeter could be heard clicking as the numbers on it changed to mark the miles traveled. Taximeters were invented before the taxi cab itself, and the first taxis got their names from the taximeter.
Today taximeters are usually electronic and sit inside the taxicab where the driver and passengers can read it. The taximeter goes through cycles over the course of a trip, each marking a different stage. First, when the taxi is unoccupied, a small sign is displayed on the taximeter that says the taxi is free or for hire. Next, once passengers have entered the taxi, the meter starts counting how far the taxi has traveled and displays the current amount owed to the taxi driver.
The meter continues to run throughout the trip. When the taxi reaches its destination, the driver stops the meter and collects the money from his passengers. He can then choose to print a receipt from the taximeter and give it to the customers as proof of payment.
Taximeters have additional features besides printing receipts and charting money owed. Newer electronic meters can also function as a GPS, a radio to communicate with others, and can even be used to run a credit card. All of these features ensure that both the driver and the passengers have a pleasant ride and that the proper fee is paid at the end of the trip.
Today passengers can go online and get an estimate of how much a trip will cost. This virtual taximeter asks for the start and ending destination and the date the passenger will be traveling. It then gives an estimate of the overall cost and allows the passenger to book a taxi in advance by phone. Passengers who book a taxi this way should keep in mind that the fare may vary depending on the circumstances of the actual trip.