Will Dean's Ideas Factory: The electric taxi of the future… from 1897

 

It might take a brave passenger to ask a cabbie their thoughts on driverless
taxi cars. Can a robot ever compete with a black-cab driver's knowledge of The
Knowledge? Perhaps. But the idea of futuristic taxis is something
that precedes not just the 21st century, but the 20th too, as a new exhibition
at London's Science Museum called Climate Changing Stories explains.

And although concepts for a completely driver-free electric taxi have been made – notablly, the Opti Driverless Taxi, mooted for release on to the streets of London in 2025, is one – it wasn't quite possible in 1897.

But what was possible was the Bersey cab, an electrically propelled taxi that ditched the horses and relied on a burgeoning electricity network.

"We think of electric cars as something really futuristic," says Selina Hurley, the exhibition's curator, in a video explaining the Bersey's place there, "but they're actually a lot older than we think."

Around 70 of the Bersey cabs were made and – on a day's charge – they were thought to be able to cover 30 miles, enough for a shift lugging people around London.

Unfortunately for the environment, Walter Bersey's company went bust two years after the cabs hit the streets, under pressure from cabbies worried about their jobs. Something that, if new electric, driverless cabs took off, one can imagine being repeated.

The Bersey cab features alongside stories about wind turbines and the now-rare incandescent light bulb at the exhibition, which runs to 2014.

For more information on the Climate Changing Stories exhibition, visit sciencemuseum.org.uk

QRIP – a digital legacy for those who are six feet under

Some epitaphs can tell you a lot about the person buried beneath the gravestone upon which they are carved. Spike Milligan's "I told you I was ill" probably says as much about the Goon as any lengthy biography, although he did have to have it written in Gaelic to get it past the bureaucracy of the diocese of Chichester.

Similar problems might be encountered by those signing up for a headstone at David Quiring's store in Seattle. As a piece on the decline of QR (quick response) codes in Bloomberg Businessweek explains, Quiring offers, for $75 (£48), to carve one of the barcode-like codes on to your headstone, meaning that visitors, rather than just learning your date of birth and maybe a line on your relatives, can scan the QR code and learn lots about you. As one commentator on the piece put it, "I have a QR code at my husband's grave marker – it is wonderful, I have pictures of him, his obituary, pictures of our travels around the world. He was a remarkable man and now future generations and even our growing current generation will know about their 'Uncle Ed'."

One hopes, for Uncle Ed's memory's sake, that in 100 years, whatever devices those future generations are using can read QR codes.

No cars go, says Bhutan's PM

…And now something else to wind cabbies up. Bhutan, the Himalayan country famous for its gross-national-happiness index, has recently experimented with another charming policy. On 1 June, Prime Minister Jigme Thinley decreed that all Tuesdays in Bhutan's capital city, Thimphu, were to be thenceforth official "pedestrians' days". Meaning that – besides buses, taxis and emergency vehicles (at certain hours) – no cars go. The order explains that it's to give Bhutan's citizens a "chance to contemplate the fragile nature of our precious Himalayan mountain ecology".

It's safe to say that Boris Johnson (scourge of the congestion zone western extension) would not back a similar plan in the UK capital, but it would certainly be a breath of fresh air.

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
film
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Apprentice IT Technician

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

    1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

    £153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

    Sales Associate Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

    Apprentice C# .NET Developer

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We provide business administration softw...

    Day In a Page

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal