If you’re going to drive a taxi in Greater London, you need The Knowledge:
All London taxi drivers are required to have a detailed knowledge of London within a 6 mile radius of Charing Cross. In order to obtain this candidates have to pass through the world renowned “Knowledge of London”.
The Knowledge requires candidates to learn a total of 320 routes that criss-cross London and are specifically designed to leave no gaps. Taxi drivers have to also remember all places of interest or note en route: embassies, colleges, buildings, municipal offices and all other public buildings, hotels, theatres, stations, hospitals, museums, restaurants — and the list goes on.
There are over 60,000 streets or roads within the 6 mile radius — with all of their one-way and restricted turn intricacies — plus over 100,000 places of note that the potential London cab driver has to learn.
“Big deal,” you say. “We have GPS now. That’s more than enough.”
You are wrong, Beckenham breath. You’re giving up quite a bit with navigation systems:
A new study suggests drivers who follow GPS directions regularly do not engage their hippocampus, highly limiting the development of an internal map and making them more dependent on navigation devices.
The University College London discovered the hippocampus (used for direction and memory) and the prefrontal cortex (used for decision-making) both saw elevated levels of activity whenever drivers turned down unfamiliar streets or had free-choice to follow along their route. However, those making use of navigational systems produced no additional activity in those areas whatsoever. Zero, zilch, nada.
The researchers’ experiment monitored the brains of 24 volunteers during driving simulations of central London, some with fixed routes to a destination and some without. Those without may have made it to their destinations on-time, but the extreme lack of mental energy exerted by those two areas was on par with someone watching an episode of The View.
Then again, there’s no need to watch The View unless you’re a fan of Jedediah Bila, and of course you should be.