London Cab Driver Takes on Sat-Nav—and Beats It By 27 Minutes

The BBC pitted the wits of a black cab driver against the latest GPS technology in an effort to find out whether man or gadget rules the mean streets of rush-hour London. And, in a result that will not surprise TomTom-challenged Londoners one bit, although the TomTom GO 720 won the first round, Andy the cabbie completely p0wned the Sat-Nav. More info below.

When you think about what a cabbie has to endure—an average of 34 months spent learning the Knowledge, as it is referred to, when you take to the streets of London on a moped, with nothing but a kagoule and an A to Z for company, when you phut-phut your way round the capital's roads until you know the city like the back of your hand, and can prove it to a bunch of bolshie examiners—then it is not surprising that the human element triumphed over technology.

Says Spencer Kelly, presenter of the technology programme Click:

We chose waypoints that took us through extremely busy parts of London. We would need to go from Box Hill in Surrey to Wembley Stadium, then the Houses of Parliament and finish at Greenwich Observatory. In fact, if we had just followed the shortest route to our first waypoint - the new Wembley Stadium - we would have gone right through some of the worst traffic blackspots in the area.

The rules were simple. Andy the cabbie could choose whichever route he wanted, listen to traffic reports on the radio, and change route at any time. But so he did not get an unfair advantage, he was not allowed to use bus/taxi lanes to avoid any jams. I had to do what the sat-nav said. No exceptions.

Spencer, who was using the TomTom, and alternated between the voice of Yoda and John Cleese, won the first leg, choosing to use the M25, a mahoosive freeway that circumnavigates London. He managed to get to Wembley Stadium, in the northwest of the city, five minutes ahead of Andy. When it came to the streets of the city center, however, Andy's experience was at a clear advantage, and he was already celebrating with a cuppa beside the Greenwich Observatory by the time Spencer had arrived at the Houses of Parliament. [BBC Online]