Why Are so Many Taxi Cabs Yellow?

With the rising popularity of Uber and Lyft over the past few years, the thought of taking a taxi cab is almost obsolete. But taxis are still prevalent in major cities all over the world as some people needing a quick ride may have better access to a taxi than a ride-share car. After all, most taxis are easy to spot as their yellow color is far more detectable than someone else’s silver Toyota Corolla. But have you ever wondered why many taxi cabs are yellow in the first place?

Visibility has something to do taxis being yellow

You may have noticed that many taxi cabs all over the world are painted different colors. Some of them are black, blue, white, or even green. But why are the majority of them yellow? You would think that it mainly has to do with one company making them that way – Yellow Cab – however, there’s one important reason that many taxis are the color of the sun.

According to Science Insider, who produced the video above, researchers tracked over 16,000 different taxis over the course of three months. What they found out was yellow cabs are 5% less likely to be rear-ended during the daytime and 19% less likely at night. That’s not the only reason taxi cabs are yellow. Let’s take a quick look at the past see how the yellow cab began.

Yellow taxi cab history

Taxis pass the Margaritaville Resort Times Square during the opening in New York.
Taxis pass the Margaritaville Resort Times Square during the opening in New York. | Photographer: Amir Hamja/Bloomberg

In 1908, an inventor and manufacturer named Albert Rockwell opened a taxi company and painted all of its cars yellow and not because that color is more visible. According to Alexandria Yellow Cab, Rockwell painted his taxis yellow because it was his wife’s favorite color. It just so happened that this fleet of yellow cars was more visible in the streets of New York. This also led Rockwell to name his business the “Yellow Taxi Cab Company” in 1915.

Around that same time, in 1915, a car salesman named John Hertz in Chicago started his own cab company based on a surplus of traded-in cars. In order to make his fleet stand out, Hertz turned to a scientific study done at the University of Chicago.

The study revealed that yellow paint with a touch of red stood out the most to the human eye at a distance. Upon learning this, Hertz had all of his taxi painted yellow and established “Hertz’s Chicago Yellow Cab Company.” He later established the better-known Hertz Corporation in 1953 and used the same yellow for the logo.

Eventually, many taxi companies in New York began painting their cars yellow, which led to an official ruling in 1967 that all New York cabs must be painted the same yellow color. Most specifically, “Dupont M6284 or equivalent,” reports The UI Junkie.

Green is actually more visible than yellow

While painting taxi cabs yellow is great for visibility, as the research showed, the interesting part is that it’s not the most visible color. According to the Aiken Standard, newer studies have shown that green is the most visible color to the human eye, but only during the daytime.

At night, the color green can blend in with green surroundings (like trees) and other cars, so it’s not the most optimal color for cabs. Instead, yellow still reigns supreme. So the next time you take an Uber or Lyft, if the car you get into happens to be yellow, you can tell the driver this newfound information about their old-school competition.

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