22nd February 2016

The pros and cons of sat-nav in your taxi

It’s now possible for some private hire drivers to get their licences without necessarily knowing their surroundings. The widespread use of GPS technology now means that anybody can get detailed maps and directions beamed straight to their phone or on-board system.

Nowadays, drivers are becoming increasingly reliant on technology, with tests of local knowledge in rapid decline. Here, we take a look at both the benefits and drawbacks of satellite navigation in the world of public and private hire taxis.

The pros

The introduction of sat-nav technology has transformed life for hire drivers. It’s undeniable that GPS can provide way more information on locations, routes and potential journey times than a driver’s own knowledge. Say your fare asks to go to a street you don’t recognise. Finding your way there by the quickest possible route is as simple as pressing a button, saving you the embarrassment of having to ask “where’s that?”

It’s not just current drivers that can benefit though. With the technology in place, more and more potential drivers are able to get their licences without the need for gruelling examinations. Particularly in London, it can take cabbies years of studying before they finally become licensed, so the humble sat-nav could certainly help to speed the process along.

But that could also lead to problems…

The cons

When it gets easier to become a licensed driver for hire, we start to reach a point where pretty much “just anyone” can get behind the wheel. This is most noticeable with services like the controversial Uber. Ultimately, the reputation of cab drivers could be questioned; “is my driver an experienced local or just an average Joe?”

On top of potential reputational damage, the on-board instructions may never always be 100% accurate. GPS navigation is automatically programmed to find the quickest route to a destination, based on the information it has available. Information about recently closed roads or diversions may not always be up to date and trying to get alternate directions can be a pain.

So, what’s best?

With GPS technology in place for many drivers anyway, it’s certainly helped more than it’s hindered. Sure, we’ve all heard the bizarre stories of people driving into fields and ditches because “the sat-nav said so”. However, most drivers have the common sense and knowledge of where to go when a GPS route seems to be incorrect.

Ultimately, we feel that having knowledge of the local surroundings is highly beneficial, as it can be comforting for passengers to feel they have an experienced driver. Yes, sat-navs are extremely handy, but they should really be used as an added luxury, rather than the be-all and end-all of a driver’s knowledge.

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