50 years of ferrying lost S’poreans: How taxis have changed, but also not really

Taxis have been around since 1970.

Sponsored| Tanya Ong| March 21, 10:00 AM

It’s easy to forget how ubiquitous sights in Singapore used to be groundbreaking stuff at some point in our history.

Like how the tallest block of housing flats in Singapore used to be nine storeys in the early-1950s.

Upper Pickering Street. 1954. Photo via National Archives.

And the fact that cabs in Singapore didn’t always have an electronic meter installed in it until 1981. (Yes, the meter that we now take for granted didn’t always exist.)

Or how, once upon a time, you would breathe a sigh of relief when the answer to “Uncle, do you accept NETS ah?” was “yes”.

You could, of course, hope the cabby trusts you enough, reassure him/her that you would return with the money and run upstairs to get the cash as quickly as you can possibly manage…

But this seems far too anxiety-inducing, and not at all ideal.

Technological breakthrough

Thankfully, NETS has been available in taxis since 2006. A real godsend for us kids who weren’t old (or baller) enough to own a credit card back then.

Look at us now, booking a cab using an app on our snazzy smartphone, using ultra-fast 4G speeds, and then paying the fare using contactless payment systems – how did we go from being a nervous teenager, worrying about not having cash to pay for our fare, to this?

Photo courtesy of ComfortDelGro.

The evolution of taxis

Also, remember when taxis used to look like this?

2000s. Photo courtesy of ComfortDelGro.

Or this?

1990s. Photo courtesy of ComfortDelGro.

Yes, the look and feel of cabs have evolved over the years. And in case you were wondering, here’s what cabs looked like when they first started in Singapore:

Photo courtesy of ComfortDelGro.

Photo courtesy of ComfortDelGro.

1970s. Photo courtesy of ComfortDelGro.

Fast forward 30 years, and the vehicles have traded this boxy look for a whole range of newer, more aerodynamic models.

Photo courtesy of ComfortDelGro.

And check out this swanky interior:

Photo courtesy of ComfortDelGro.

Keeping up with the times

Within the 50 years that they’ve been around, taxis (and cabbies) have also changed to keep up with technological advancements and digital transformations.

As internet services became ubiquitous, it has become possible to do online bookings for cabs since 2009.

Now, with the advent of smartphones, we can get a cab from anywhere and also enjoy a fixed fare ride offer when making a booking through the ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking App.

The ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking App offers a variety of several in-app cashless payments (DBS PayLah!, NETS Click, Masterpass, you name it), as well as a ComfortPoints programme that allows passengers to accumulate points to offset portions of the fares.

By booking a taxi with the ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking App, passengers who choose any of the in-app cashless payment modes (great for all you absent-minded folks who tend to forget your wallet) can earn ComfortPoints.

One can also set their frequent destinations (like your home and office address) under ‘Favourites’, so booking a ride is always convenient.

The most unique thing about the app is that it also has a Pay for Street Hail feature.

This feature allows users to utilise contactless payment options for street hail trips. They can also apply promo codes to offset the fares and earn ComfortPoints at the same time.

You can also earn 5 ComfortPoints for every dollar spent.

....But some things never change

But even though taxis have come a long way (you can check out their milestones here) and changed quite a bit, taxi drivers have always been there for generations of Singaporeans through various phases of our lives.

They have safely sent us home at 4am after a night of partying (while also quietly hoping that we wouldn’t throw up in their car).

They have seen us fret over a presentation that we were rushing to and reassured us that they would get us to our destination in the quickest (and safest) possible manner.

They were also there the first time we laid our head on our crush’s shoulder while returning home from a date.

All rides are different. And yet, it doesn’t matter if we are 8 or 28 -- there is something oddly familiar about each one.

Picture this: You get into a taxi, and unlike other modes of transport like taking the train or bus, you are immediately made aware of a distinct scent that has somehow been present in most, if not all, of your rides.

The oh-so-familiar scent

You can’t quite put your finger on what it is exactly – perhaps it is a mix of sun-kissed leather, floral air freshener, floor mats and cool air conditioning. But perhaps that’s not it either.

Or perhaps it's the pandan leaves that ward off cockroaches.

When your driver asks you if you have a preferred route, your answer is likely to be somewhere along the lines of “Ehhhh, I’m not really sure… Anything.”

You trust the cabby to get you to your destination as quickly as possible because he/she probably knows the roads in Singapore better than you ever will.

The driver somehow knows which turns to take to get you to your destination without having to rely on any maps.

Meanwhile, you don't even have any idea how many streets and avenues there are in Tampines, let alone where each is located.

Having been around for 50 years, however, taxi drivers can always be counted on to be there for lost Singaporeans.

Ah, some things will never change.

Download the ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking App to book taxis from anywhere, and visit their website for more information on their latest updates.

Top photo courtesy of ComfortDelGro.

This sponsored article by ComfortDelGro made the writer thankful that she will never get lost because she can always rely on her cabby to know the way.