Cabbies Don't Need No Stinkin' Navigation Systems

from the they-know-where-they're-going dept

At first pass, it may seem like satellite navigation systems would be perfect for taxi cabs. However, it turns out that cab drivers think they’re a waste of time. The reasoning really isn’t that surprising. Navigation systems are really useful in areas where you don’t know where you’re going. They make little sense when you know exactly where to go — as a taxi driver should. So the benefit is pretty limited. Then, of course, there’s another reason not mentioned in this particular article, but which has been discussed in the past: the cabbies are worried that the systems will be used more for tracking their whereabouts, rather than for better navigation. Of course, it will be interesting to see how this changes once navigation systems also include traffic congestion information — which could have a big impact on what route a taxi driver uses.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Cabbies Don't Need No Stinkin' Navigation Systems”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Other Things Cabbies Don't Like...

Oh, and here’s another thing cabbies don’t like:

– When you bring a GPS navigation system into the cab, and watch where they go from the back seat.

I’ve done this, and the reaction is generally quite negative. But I have my reasons. I’m a geek and have fun doing it, I’ve already paid for my device/service so why not use it, and of course I like to know if they’re driving me the super-long way.

I don’t tell them where to turn, and I don’t care if they create a different route than the GPS – these things are fallible too. But I do notice when they go way off route.

Cruncher says:

With the navigation, Cab driver can tell the passenger upfront ,exact amount it is going to cost.Not that it really matters most of times, but I donot know how much it costs from San Jose to San Francisco.

He can do a detour.

So what if boss tracks it, it only helps quick decision making ,In fact driver can justify any dealy easily..And lot less noise in the cab (like that horrifying talkie speeker noise ” 203, where are you … there is one customer across the street ….. “).

For door2door shuttles navi can give optimal sequnce of destination points.

As it is getting lot inexpensive, i think GPS will go intto all cabs, and it is good for all – dirver,cab agency and the passenger.

dynastykai says:

Hate it

I hate it when I get in a cab and tell them where I need to go, but then I have to give them directions. This is bad for new people moving to a city and visitors because of the fact if you say I don’t know, they take the longest route to get to where they know where they are then to where you want to go.

This has happened alot of times coming from downtown san fran to my home.

Search Engine WEB (user link) says:


////…the cabbies are worried that the systems will be used more for tracking their whereabouts, rather than for better navigation.

AS with most high-technology there are Pluses and Minuses…

One plus would be applicable to the rash of cab robberies that seem to peak every so often – to the point where, in some cities, there are Barriers seperating the Cab Driver from the public.

Imagine a smallish, hidden button you could push with your foot or hand – that would not only alert the police or your main headquarters, but allow them to view the navigation in real-time if they are able to correspond with the police.

ConceptJunkie (profile) says:

Re: Robberies

I liked the small button hidden in Bruce Willis’ cab in “The Fifth Element” better. 😉

I’m not surprised cabbies don’t care about navigation systems. These guy eat and breathe the streets of where they work. I never felt the need for them either. The only time I would find one useful is when driving in a place I’ve never been before, and to me, exploring and navigating is half the fun.

In most places, if you have a general idea of which direction you need to go, you can get where you want to be without knowing the exact way. Of course, I don’t mind taking a little side excursion (or “short cut” as they are amusingly called in our family) because you invariably see something new, discover something you never expected to see and sometimes find a new route. Fortunately, my wife has a huge case of wanderlust, so she is more than happy to take a chance on a new route.

Maybe it’s an example of that “men never ask for directions” stereotype. I dunno, I’ll plead guilty on that. But I manage to get around just fine without a navigation system, and that includes when I drove on the mythical roads of Boston a few times.

Of course, my sister can get lost driving around the block, and for her, a navigation system would be very useful and helpful.

I can see their value for anyone (if you’ve ever been to North Arlington, VA, just outside of DC, you can attest that the roads there do not conform to Euclidian geometry… I’ve gotten lost there _with_ a map), but despite being an unrepentent gadget freak, I don’t plan on getting a navigation system any time soon. Just give me my Neuros 80GB MP3/OGG player… _that’s_ my navigation system. 😉

Of course, I _could_ see a time when a navigation system would be very useful. Living near Washington, D.C., we have the worst traffic this side of L.A., and if the GPS systems could link up to real-time traffic data and determine the best route based on traffic patterns, then it would be a very valuable commodity to even someone who doesn’t need help getting around.

Celes says:

Re: Re: Robberies

Ah, DC. The city of no left turn. ^_^

My father has a Garmin GPS, and he’ll often use it when on a road trip to somewhere he’s already been because it doesn’t always calculate the same route for him, and he likes the change of scenery every once in a while without having to worry about where the next turn is too much.

Richard (profile) says:

It's in London

The one important thing missed out from the article summary is that this is talking about taxi (black cab) drivers in London. Cabbies in London have to learn a significant amount of the city off by heart, and are examined on it, before they are given a license – it’s one of the reasons why being a cabbie is a pretty respectable career choice in London. The average time taken to learn The Knowledge ranges from 26 months for a suburban application to 34 months to someone who is an ‘All London’ applicant.

In other words, the article is not saying that cabbies in general don’t like satnav – it’s saying that a particular group of cabbies, who are justifiably proud of their knowledge of their city, don’t like satnav.

JD says:

Sat Nav, Cabbies and the knowledge

Sat Naav could never replace the London Cabbie’s Knowledge. Not unless the routes they plot actually start to save time, reliably. They take an approved route, ie main roads, safe and open. Working in London I have had cab rides that go down roads that probably don’t even exist on maps. The cabbie’s know all of these. That is why they can get clear across town in the middle of peak traffic.

claire rand says:

London cabbies

the knowlegde has one other, desirable, side effect. London cabbies speak english well enough to be understood. unlike most other locations in the uk where its not uncommon to find a cabbie (or a mini-cabbie where the problem is worse) with a somewhat less than helpful grasp of the language.

I’m waiting the knowlegde to be challenged as discriminatory on these grounds, but i like it. the idea i can get into a cab, tell the driver where i want to go (at least the street name, if not the name of the hotel etc) and they will know where it is and how to get there is worth it.

sat nav is ok, but i’ve always found in a rats nest of roads its less than helpful (confusing where you are for example), a real life London cabbie doesn’t have that problem (as often)

RenderingSanity says:

Actually cabbies have some of the highest IQs in the world. Since they have to learn roadways and keep up to date on construction continually it keeps their mind active and forces them to always be learning. It’s not surprise they don’t need navigation tools.

No they can’t speak any language helpful to any passenger but I’d be willing to put my life in the hands of a cabbie when it came to where I need to go and getting there in a timely manner.

Celes says:

Re: Re:

Not in Baltimore, you wouldn’t. I work in a hotel in the city, and we regularly have guests who are charged $50 to get from Fell’s Point to our hotel (which is around 5 blocks away, mind you). I’m sure that most cabbies here don’t act dishonestly, but it’s definitely a large enough percentage that several city organizations have started to take action.

I can’t speak for every city, of course, but satellite navigation could go a long way toward repairing Baltimore’s trust in their cabbies – at least if the GPS shows a 5-block route and the cabbie’s been driving for 20 minutes, the passenger knows something’s up.

Lay Person says:

Cabbies suck!

You know, cabbies always drive more wreckless and faster when they have no customer in the seat.

Once they have a customer, I’ve never seen anyone drive slower or more by the book than a cab driver.

Soon as the customer sits in, he switches into slow motion and stupid mode. Taking the slowest lanes and super law abiding driving.

What they need is an electric ass zapper that once they go too slow or act too stupid BZZZZZ right in th ass 40,000 volts of pure tazing power!

MartinE (user link) says:

Paris cab ride

I had a cabbie in Paris who asked where we were going, didn’t recognize the neighborhod (Marais) or the street (Rue de Temple) even though both are main areas. He just flipped on his nav system and stared at it, making every turn it told him to including some pretty complicated and localized backstreets to avoid one ways.

It was a little weird to watch but it was the most direct route I could figure out. However he is not learning anything working this way- one step away from a robot driver.

ex-nyc cabbie says:

who needs GPS?

GPS systems cost $500 to $1,000. New York City cab drivers often make less than $100 for a 12-hour shift–a pay level that hasn’t gone up much since I was a cabbie in the mid-1980s. So if cab companies install GPS devices, the cost is going to come out of the drivers’ minimal pay.

Also, someone who’s been driving a cab for any length of time should know their way around the city reasonably well–and which routes are more likely to have heavy traffic.

Oh yea, and for people who hate cabbies (like Layperson): Of the 40 or so fares you pick up in a 12-hour shift, at least one is guaranteed to be a platinum-plated cretin.

christopher carfi (user link) says:


The Exploratorium in San Francisco actually has a pretty nifty visualization / art project that uses GPS info from cabs. It’s called Cabspotting, and is at From their site:

“Cabspotting traces San Francisco’s taxi cabs as they travel throughout the Bay Area. The patterns traced by each cab create a living and always-changing map of city life. This map hints at economic, social, and cultural trends that are otherwise invisible. The Exploratorium has invited artists and researchers to use this information to reveal these “Invisible Dynamics.”

Visually, it’s pretty nifty. Not sure how I’d feel about it if I was a cabbie, however.

Alex says:

First, GPS systems can be had for as low as $300, not $500-1000. And if a cab fleet buys alot, i’m sure they can haggle a discount price.

Also, to #13, NYC cabbies do not change their driving behavior one bit when they get a passenger. My friend was in NYC for the first time and nearly peed her pants when the cabbie took off and *almost* got us killed.

pixelninja says:

stop the BS in Vegas

This is needed in Las Vegas. The cabbies there will tell you that the store you want to go to doesn’t exist and end up driving you all the way across town, or they’ll tell you that they don’t know where a certain club is and want to take you to the one that gives them a kickback. If you insist on the address you gave them, they’ll take you for an extended ride. They would hate having a gps system.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...