Over the past several years, Uber has had a huge impact on the taxi industry. Taxis previously had a monopoly and did absolutely nothing to innovative, and now they’re paying the price for it.
While some of Uber’s techniques are questionable, the reason I’m not sad about seeing much of the taxi industry shrink is because I just got so used to bad service, dirty cars, rude drivers, etc. And that’s not the case with Uber.
London is a bit unique, though. Their taxi drivers actually go through outrageous training, and have to earn a “Green Badge.” How much knowledge is required to become a cabbie in London? Via The Daily Mail:
In order to get a Green Badge and drive one of London’s famous black cabs, drivers must pass The Knowledge, which involves memorising London’s 25,000 streets and is thought to be one of the world’s toughest tests.
Sat navs are forbidden, and drivers are expected to instantly know the street name, hotel or landmark given to them by the customer, and the shortest route possible to reach it.
That’s right, you have to memorize every street in London, and know how to get from anywhere to anywhere as quickly as possible. That’s sort of obscene.
Some even compare it to becoming a doctor:
Mr Linksey said: ‘People don’t appreciate the skill that goes into driving a cab. You don’t decide you want to be a doctor and turn up at a hospital’
The context of all this is that London’s largest taxi training school is closing next month, in no small part due to the decreased demand for taxis and the increased demand for Uber.
‘Demand has gone down since Uber arrived,’ the Knowledge Point’s founder Malcolm Linskey, 70, told The Financial Times. ‘Usually we have 350 students enrolling a year, last year it was 200.’
I sort of have conflicting thoughts on this:
- The amount of knowledge London taxi drivers have is impressive
- On one hand, I can appreciate that unlike in other cities, London taxi drivers actually take pride in what they do, and are “professionals”
- On the other hand, consumers are directly paying for this, as the schooling doesn’t just take time, but also costs a significant amount of money
- London taxis are expensive; before Uber I always just took public transportation, while I’ll now often take Uber in London
The concept of knowing every street just seems outdated to me. The whole reason the taxi industry is being hit so hard is because they didn’t keep up with the times. It’s great that the London taxi drivers know every street there is, but ultimately I’d much rather have a driver use a nav system when there’s traffic.
Interestingly Russel Brand went on a tirade a while back, comparing London taxi drivers to Uber drivers. If you have some brain cells to spare, it’s an amusing video:
The taxi industry is where it is due to a lack of willingness to adopt new technology and innovation. While it might be a harsh reality, I think the London taxi industry perhaps stands more to gain by lowering prices, decreasing schooling, and increasing use of technology. That might get them further than shaking their heads at Uber’s success and talking about how they’re more educated. Because most consumers (including me) aren’t willing to pay for that.
Do you care how knowledgable your driver is, or are you happy with them just entering the destination into the nav and following the directions? Are you willing to pay a premium for a more knowledgable driver?