What does the future hold for black cabs?
As many people already know, London cab drivers go through an incredibly rigorous set of examinations, known as The Knowledge, before they may take up their chosen trade in the capital’s streets. When you step into a black cab you can rest assured that not only will your driver instantly recognise your destination, but that he (or she) will know the quickest route; factoring in time of day and other considerations. If you like, they’ll even be able to point out landmarks like theatres, embassies and public buildings along the way.
[T]hese exams ensure that all cab drivers have the requisite skill to carry passengers safely, maintains trust in the cab system, and requires potential applicants to study for years. On the proud day of passing a newly licenced cabbie enters a noble fraternity of trained professionals who take great pride in their work.
But now this business model is under threat from rivals like Uber who claim are able to undercut cabbies and offer cars on demand, controlled through a phone. Uber drivers are rated by their passengers, but they go through absolutely nothing comparable to studying The Knowledge. What’s more, Uber drivers don’t go through the vigorous safety and background screening that we do, so there are some glaring gaps in Uber’s model.
Perhaps the widespread use of GPS has eroded some of the cab’s hard earned advantage over rivals – but there are ways that we will continue to offer a bespoke service which will remain in demand. Tourists value the local knowledge and colour that a trained cabbie can reliably provide; and others just want to take a spin in an iconic black cab!
Another area for future consideration is the entertainment options available within cabs. Already many have a screen on the back seat but they are primarily used to beam advertising to a captive audience. There are so many ways that the “back seat” experience could be improved; from offering WiFi and TV; tablets to play games and other forms of entertainment. Driving customers to football games I often see them struggling to get signal to place pre match bets. If cabs could offer a reliable platform to browse – from playing casino games showcased at Chipzup to reading headlines on the BBC wouldn’t that surely be a competitive advantage they’d come back for?
Currently a fierce battle rages over the fate of Uber; and there is yet a chance it will be regulated or banned. But looking to the future cabbies need to accept the market has changed; and be prepared to embrace new ways to meet our customers needs.