Sat-nav and taxi work

An interesting article that discusses the reality of so-called "sat-nav" systems appeared the other day courtesy of BBC News: England.

The article itself - Sat-nav takes on Knowledge in suburbs (Steven Shukor) - is based on an experiment to prove/disprove whether new satellite technology is better than the knowledge of a certain group of taxi drives - in this case the know-how of London cabbie drivers.

In the "experiment" an inexperienced private hire car driver with a sat-nav system was pitted against a black cab being driven by someone who had recently passed a test requiring the driver to know every street within six miles of Charing Cross.

In brief, the cabbie driver won on time, but not on cost. Apparently, several similar experiments have produced the same result each time.

What I think is interesting about the article (and the mini-experiment) - and not just in terms of what kind of taxi is best to take when in London - is how many issues are raised in the process.

For example, issues related to how work can be degraded and de-skilled, how technology can be used to pit workers against each other, and, how it is often believed that high technology is better than tacit human knowledge.

I'm sure tacit knowledge will probably win the day for at least the near future, but I can't help feeling that the technology will surely improve to take into account the obstacles all drivers face on a day-to-day basis. If this is the case then it'll be increasingly difficult to justify higher fares based on tacit knowledge alone.

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