London Cab's “The Knowledge” Test Irrelevant?

Posted on August 14, 2015 by

An article in the Atlantic's Quartz, recently shined light on the city of London’s notorious “Knowledge” test that cab drivers must pass in order to work the bustling streets. The test has been in place since 1851, after outcries that the for-hire, horse-drawn buggies of the time had clueless drivers who needed a better understanding of the local lay of the land.

The test requires drivers to have a rote memory of how to travel to and from all the various hot-spot destinations. Drivers go to special schools to help them memorize the city’s streets, back alleys, routes, and locations, and it’s been called one of the hardest tests in the world.

It’s also interesting to note that London’s cab drivers have been studied extensively over the years, and have shown to have different brain structures because of their skill, that the memorization of all the streets increases grey matter and nerve cells in the hippocampus.

The article and accompanying video follows a cab student as he studies for the “The Knowledge” test. TNC drivers now outnumber official cabs in London, 3 to 1, and he feels that the GPS makes a mockery of The Knowledge.

City officials have brought up the issue of “The Knowledge” Test's relevancy, as it’s been a staple and characteristic of the city of London, synonymous with double decker red buses and Buckingham Palace. Time will tell how “The Knowledge” will persevere going forward into the digital age. Autonomous vehicles will one day finish the discussion, with the “The Knowledge” downloaded into the car’s computer, similar to how drivers now “download” maps into their minds.

In June, the mayor of London announced that private hire cab drivers will soon have to take an English language and geography test. Cabbies though, remain skeptical.

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