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Electrobat, via Wikimedia Commons

The First Ever U.S. Speeding Violation

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Electrobat, via Wikimedia Commons

On May 20, 1899, New York City taxi driver Jacob German was spotted on Lexington Avenue going an estimated 12 miles per hour. At the time, the speed limit was eight miles per hour on straightaways, so someone going 50% faster than that would have appeared to be absolutely flying. Bicycle Roundsman Schuessler (a bike cop) pulled German over and threw him in jail for the infraction.

The neatest thing about this story is German's ride: He was driving an "electrobat," a fully electric automobile that was invented in 1894. There were around 60 electrobat taxis on NYC's roads at the time of German's arrest. Compare that with today, when there are only four fully electric cabs being used in New York. It's a good reminder that the march of progress isn't always inexorable.

The below video (via Yahoo!) of New York's 23rd Street was shot by Thomas Edison in 1901. At around the 30-second mark, you can see an electrobat swerve into the scene. The driver clearly learned his lesson from Jacob German—he isn't going near the cheek-flapping speed of 12 miles per hour.

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environment
London Unveils New Electric-Powered Black Cabs
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Black taxi cabs (or Hackney carriages, as they're often called) have been a fixture on London's streets for decades. A redesign from the London Taxi Company should ensure they stay that way well into the future. As The Guardian reports, the newly unveiled model of the city's black cab runs on gasoline and electric batteries.

The cabs most Londoners are used to hailing are currently powered by diesel fuel, which releases much more toxic emissions than regular gas. With London facing deadly air pollution levels, city officials are pushing to replace the smog-producers with cleaner modes of transport.

The new cab runs on an electric battery for the first 70 miles of its journey before switching to a fuel reserve for the next 400. (The average cab travels about 120 miles a day.) The London Taxi Company, which will soon rebrand as the London Electric Vehicle Company, plans to have as many as 150 cabs on the road by next year, with the first vehicles debuting in November.

Starting January 1, 2018, Transport for London will require all new taxis in London to be electric or have zero-emissions capabilities. Diesel cabs introduced before the cut-off will be allowed to stay, but after turning 15 they will need to be retired—therefore, the city should be completely diesel-free by 2032.

The black cab isn't the first four-wheeled London icon to receive an earth-friendly update. In 2016, Transport for London launched its inaugural fleet of all-electric double-decker buses, vehicles the agency claimed were the first of their kind.

[h/t The Guardian]

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The Reason Police Officers Tap Your Taillight When They Pull You Over
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Asking a driver for their license and registration is common procedure from police officers during traffic stops. There’s another practice that was once standard across the force but is more of a mystery to the people being pulled over: While approaching a driver’s window, officers will sometimes touch a car's taillight. It's a behavior that dates back decades, though there's no reason to be concerned if it happens at your next traffic stop.

Before cameras were installed on the dashboards of most police cars, tapping the taillight was an inconspicuous way for officers to leave behind evidence of the encounter, according to The Law Dictionary. If something were to happen to the officer during the traffic stop, their interaction with the driver could be traced back to the fingerprints left on the vehicle. This would help other police officers track down a missing member of the force even without video proof of a crime.

The action also started as a way for officers to spook drivers before reaching their window. A pulled-over motorist with a car full of illegal drugs or weapons might scramble to hide any incriminating materials before the officer arrives. The surprise of hearing a knock on their taillight might disrupt this process, increasing their likelihood of getting caught.

Today the risks of this strategy are thought to outweigh the benefits. Touching a taillight poses an unnecessary distraction for officers, not to mention it can give away their position, making them more vulnerable to foul play. And with dash cams now standard in most squad cars, documenting each incident with fingerprints isn’t as necessary as it once was. It’s for these reasons that some police agencies now discourage taillight tapping. But if you see it at your next traffic stop, that doesn’t mean the officer is extra suspicious of you—just that it’s a hard habit to break.

[h/t The Law Dictionary]

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