Did Uber Kill London Cabbies' Need for "Knowledge"?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 11/02/2015 11:57:00 AM
London black cab drivers must famously have memorized the streets of central London by acquiring "The Knowledge." Without it, they cannot acquire a license to drive a taxi in that world-famous city. Unless you've been hiding under a cave, the emergence of Uber--the ride-sharing service--has dented the business of licensed taxi drivers the world over. After all, why spend so much time (3-5 years), effort and expense to acquire a license when some joker with a smartphone and Uber can do exactly the same sort of thing?

As it so happens, the largest cabbie school in London is closing its doors--mostly due to the Uber phenomenon:
Malcolm Linskey expects tears. The 70-year-old will retire soon, an event hastened by falling demand for the business he started 30 years ago, Knowledge Point, a training school for London black cab drivers. “It’s crazy, we’re going to be brushed aside,” he says. The cabby school, London’s largest, is to close its doors in December on the building it has occupied for 26 years in Islington, north London, blaming the twin pressures of Uber and increased property prices. 
Time moves on:
Mr Linskey says it will continue to produce and sell taxi driver training materials in print and online supplemented by training sessions in church halls and community centres. Uber, the cut-price taxi app that started in San Francisco, has sparked protests of unfair competition from cab drivers across the world. In May, parts of London were in gridlock following a demonstration by taxi drivers who felt the lack of regulation favoured such “e-hailing” apps.

London cabbies must study “the Knowledge”, learning their way round 25,000 streets as well as all the twists and turns of dead-ends and one-way roads. Before obtaining the green badge, which will license them to pick up fares in London, they will be tested on routes, for example from Manor House to Gibson Square. The school helps aspiring drivers reduce the time — on average about three and a half years — it takes to learn the various routes. 
Is this progress? It's true that many taxi drivers around the world are incompetent and unprofessional, but those in London are less likely to be so. Regardless, they too are as vulnerable to the winds of "creative destruction" as their peers elsewhere.