In London, the Knowledge is legendary: an exhaustive test of more than 25,000 of the city's streets, roads, and avenues, which black cab drivers must memorize in order to find their way around without GPS. However, as traditional taxi-work is threatened by apps like Uber, demand for the Knowledge is falling. According to a report from The Financial Times, the largest black cab training school in London, Knowledge Point, is set to close its doors in December, blaming Uber's success as well London's rising property prices.
"Demand has gone down since Uber arrived."
Knowledge Point's founder, Malcolm Linskey, told the FT: "Demand has gone down since Uber arrived. Usually we have 350 students enrolling a year, last year it was 200." Learning the Knowledge is no small feat, with the course taking 35 months on average to complete and drivers tested on any route in a six-mile radius of central London. The city's black cab drivers need to pass the Knowledge to get their license, while minicab and Uber drivers simply navigate by app.
Whether or not Uber and other taxi apps will eradicate black cabs completely is up for debate. Learning the Knowledge has its advantages, especially when it comes to re-routing during rush hour or unexpected traffic jams. Linskey tells the FT that some of his current students are also former Uber drivers who are tired of the on-demand working hours, with the 70-year-old commenting: "They are flexible to work themselves to death."
Since Uber launched in London, the city's black cab drivers have staged numerous protests and launched several lawsuits against the app. However, the most recent legal challenge against Uber failed, with London's high court ruling that the company's drivers were not breaking the law by using their apps as unofficial taximeters. Uber's drivers are cleared to keep on working in London, that is, until they themselves are replaced.