Learning the Knowledge Affects Cab Driver’s Brain Structure

Black cabsThe Knowledge is a memorised map of London, that all black cab drivers in central London has to have, which includes thousands of landmarks, some 25,000 streets and also all the theatres and the order of them on Shaftesbury Avenue.

The Knowledge of London Examination System, which often takes 12 attempts to pass, is a brutal learning process that can take between 3 to 4 years to complete. Even after the learning process, only half the trainee cabbies ace the exam.

Successfully learning The Knowledge, creates a greater volume of nerve cells in the brain’s hippocampus, according to a report published in the journal Current Biology.

Eleanor Maguire and Katherine Woollett from the neuroimaging center at University College London, conducted a lengthy study which involved following 31 controls who weren’t training to become taxi drivers and 79 trainee cab drivers. Over time, the pair studied their performance on memory tasks and took snapshots of their brain structure using MRI.

The participants of the research displayed no apparent differences in memory or brain structure at the beginning of the study. The anterior hippocampus and the posterior hippocampus, which had been shown in previous research, to be larger in London cab drivers, was currently the same across all participants.

Only 39 of the trainee participants passed the test, acquired commercial taxi insurance and became registered taxi drivers in the intervening years.

This gave the researchers an opportunity to further group the participants in segments; participants that passed, did not pass, and the controls who never trained.

Now with The Knowledge exam over, the researchers discovered an increase in grey matter, the nerve cells in the brain where processing takes place – in the back part of the hippocampus of the trainees who passed the test. Those who didn’t learn or even failed the exam, had no changes to their brain structure.

In memory tasks that involved recalling landmarks around London, both the successful and failed cabbies were better than the control group. On the other hand, other tests that were not related to London, such as recalling complex visual information, who failed The Knowledge, were better than the registered cabbies.

Maguire said, “By following the trainee taxi drivers over time as they acquired — or failed to acquire — ‘the Knowledge’, we have seen directly and within individuals how the structure of the hippocampus can change with external stimulation,

“The human brain remains ‘plastic‘even in adult life, allowing it to adapt when we learn new tasks.”

What isn’t so clear, is whether those people who passed the exam had some inherent advantage over those who failed.

Maguire said, “Could it be that those who qualified are genetically predisposed towards having a more adaptable, ‘plastic’ hippocampus?

“This leaves the perennial question of ‘nature versus nurture’ still open.”

Debate about Taxi Fares Increasing on the Isle of Wight

A debate by councillors is due next week regarding the increase of cab fares on the Isle of Wight. But in order to keep them affordable for visitors and residents, it has been recommended that fares stay the same.

A group of taxi drivers have however, handed a petition to the Isle of Wight Council arguing that the method for calculating fares are unfair and incorrect.

Currently, the fares of how much taxi drivers can charge are calculated by the Isle of Wight Council by figures given from the AA.

At the moment, a 5 mile journey on the Isle of Wight costs £10.20 during the daytime. The lowest in the UK is Bolsover at £5.80 and the highest is Kerrier at £15.49. The national average is currently £10.67.

Because of this, the Isle of Wight Council is recommending that fares stay the same and that officers keep on using the AA figures to calculate the amount cab drivers can charge their passengers.

However, cabbies fight that the figures used by the AA only relate to private motorists, not taxi drivers and are not appropriate.

A taxi driver explained to the Isle of Wight Radio that, “The average cost per litre of fuel on the Island the other day was 138.9p for petrol and 142p for diesel. These prices are more than the average prices supplied by the AA.”

“Also the average figures provided for repair, taxi insurance and servicing costs supplied by the AA are for a new vehicle. They don’t take into account that there should be an additional amount added to cover the costs of older cars and high mileage vehicles.”

March 2010 was the last time the fares were increased on the Isle of Wight.

Geely to Launch in the UK

Geely, Chinese car manufacturer, also known for its ownership of Volvo – will launch in the UK in 2012.

Manganese Bronze Holdings has made a deal with Geely International Corporation, to allow them to be its distributor in the UK market.

Parent company of Volvo, Geely International Corporation, has made a deal with Manganese Bronze Holdings (MBH), to be the UK’s distributor.

MBH is the parent company of The London Taxi Company, which many cab drivers will already have knowledge about, as the company manufactures London’s iconic black cabs, which thousands of cab drivers across the UK will have a commercial taxi insurance policy for them. The name of the new distributor will be called Geely Auto UK.

What vehicles will be sold by Geely?

One of the cars that will be sold is the Geely Emgrand EC7, which is around the same size as the Skoda Octavia. It will have a modern design and be available with a four or five door body style and be powered by 1.5 and 1.8 litre petrol engines.

The prices will start from £10,000, which is relatively cheaper than the Octavia which starts from £13,000.

Where will the cars be sold?

Although Geely owns Volvo, the cars won’t be sold from Volvo dealerships. Geely will have its own showrooms and plans to have a network of between 30-40 of them in time for their 2012 launch.

Market development director of Geely Auto UK, Matthew Cheyne, said “Geely has a comprehensive range of models well suited to European requirements. We will be aiming to widen our range just as quickly as possible, probably at least a new model range every year for the next four to five years.

“Geely cars are already suitable for Europe and meet EU homologation and whole vehicle type approval and of course Euro 5 emissions. They are all well equipped products but at affordable prices and will carry a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty.”

Have you heard of Geely cars and will you be tempted to buy one?

Hailing a Taxi for a Stranger May Be Illegal

According to a police report, Juan Banniser asked a stranger in Manhatten if he could flag down a taxi for him. The stranger said yes.

Bannister flagged down a cab, placed the stranger’s luggage in the trunk and received a tip of $1.50. Shortly after, he was arrested and charged, improbably, with the unlawful hailing of a taxi.

A little known New York City traffic rule forbids anyone from hailing a taxi for another person “not in his or her social company.”

Bannister, who is homeless, could not be arrested just because of this offence, however, it can result in summons that must be answered in Criminal Court – he was also charged with criminal nuisance for blocking traffic. The Manhatten district attorney’s office has prosecuted 109 cases that included a violation of unlawful hailing, since 2009, officials said.

Not many New Yorkers seem to be aware of the rule. John Campbell, whose firm Tilem & Campbell, handles a variety of vehicular and pedestrian violations in NYC, said “I’ve done thousands of cases related to traffic — I’ve never seen this charge.”

Years ago, people roaming the roads demanding tips in return for washing windshields or loading luggage into cabs were common. An example is someone who would assist unsuspecting tourists, who were unfamiliar with the taxi trade, into the cabs then request the whole fare upfront. Once the passengers reached their destination and realised the mistake, the scammer had disappeared a long time ago and such ‘theft’ is not covered by their travel insurance or the cab’s taxi insurance.

David Pollack, the editor of Taxi Insider explains how it happened to him “When I drove years ago, it happened to me.

“I say, ‘You forgot to pay me.’ And they say, ‘We already paid.’ I say, ‘What?’ ‘Well, we paid the gentleman who put the luggage in the trunk.’”

The rules state that if a passenger initiates the request for someone else to hail a cab, it is allowed.

Nowadays, the police have cracked down on the scammers, and they are usually summoned in conjunction with other charges e.g. fraud.

Bannister pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was put behind bars for 7 days.

Taxi Driver in Bristol behind Bars for Running down Passenger Over an £8 Fare

Muhammed Javed, taxi driver from Bristol, has been jailed for 6 months after he had run over a male passenger over in an argument over an £8 cab fare, which was proven in CCTV footage.

The passenger, Huw Lloyd suffered with head injuries and a fractured hand after Javed drove into him, carried him on the car bonnet for around 25 metres and leaving him on the road before fleeing the scene.

Lloyd was treated for cuts to his scalp and had his hand put in a plaster at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

Lloyd got into a taxi with his friend and refused to pay the full fare as he had asked the driver to pull over when the meter reached £6, Bristol Crown Court head.

Javed was accused of acting aggressively and at one point, threw a punch and Lloyd. After the argument escalated, Lloyd went to take a picture of the cab’s number plate, which aggravated Javed, who revved his engine and drove into his passenger.

Members of the public rushed to help Lloyd.

Javed pleaded guilty to assault causing actual bodily harm and dangerous driving, and was given a prison sentence, lost his UK Taxi Insurance and was banned from driving for two years.

The prosecutor, Eric Waley said, “They asked the defendant if he could take them to Cromwell Road for £7 but he said he would do it on the meter.

“When the meter reached £6 they asked to be let out but the defendant continued to drive. Miss Nicalaous said they would call the police unless he stopped and he pulled over in Stokes Croft where the fare showed £8.

“They said they would only pay him £5 because they asked him to stop and he hadn’t. They said he was arguing and being aggressive.

“Javed got out of his taxi and seemed to put his arm out to stop them leaving and is then seen to throw a punch at Mr Lloyd who seems to block it with his arm.

“The defendant ran back to his car. Mr Lloyd left but then returned to take a photo on his Blackberry phone. This really aggravated the defendant.

“He started the engine and jolted the car forward on a couple of occasions causing Mr Lloyd to put his hands on the bonnet.

“Then a black cloud of dust can be seen from the wheels spinning where he clearly has his foot down on the accelerator. He drove into Mr Lloyd causing him to go onto the bonnet and when he fell off he hit his head on the floor.’

Recorder, Simon Foster, told Javed, “It is quite plain that you deliberately used your taxi as a weapon.

“You drove deliberately at someone stood right in front of your vehicle.

“He was upon the bonnet of your car and carried down the road for some 25 metres before falling off and your vehicle disappeared around the corner.

“It is in my mind extraordinary that there was not more injuries caused. They could have been horrendous.”

Cut Resistant Clothing for Cab Drivers

In our previous news posts, QuoteSearcher reported how taxi and private hire drivers have been victims of knife crime.

Following the increase of the number of brutal knife attacks on cab drivers in the UK, PPSS Group, a UK based manufacturer of certified stab vests and bullet proof vests, has now launched cut resistant clothing to help protect drivers when out on their job.

Robert Kaiser, CEO of PPSS Group, says “We believe that our high performance cut resistant clothing will help protect taxi drivers, who often work alone at night, dealing with potentially hostile and intoxicated members of the public.”

Kaiser is a worldwide respected expert in body armour and is recognised for his passion for personal safety and protection.

Taxi drivers and private hire drivers can choose from comfortable, smart looking and slash resistant windbreakers, sleeves, gloves and sweatshirts, to help keep them protected from knife attacks.

Kaiser explains, “A knife attack, which sees the radial artery, the carotid artery or the axillary artery being cut or slashed will under normal circumstances lead to a rapid blood loss and can subsequently lead to death,”

He adds, “We strongly believe knife and slash resistant clothing, shielding these four main arteries, should be available to all taxi drivers who frequently have o face racial harassment, aggressive complains about the fare and serious drunken disorders.”

The protective clothing is made out of the world’s market leading cut resistant fabric, Cut-Tex PRO, offering Blade Cut Resistance Level 5, which is the highest possible level. Conveniently, the garments are also machine washable.

It’s not just good private hire taxi insurance that drivers need to think about getting nowadays, as they need to look out for themselves, as well as their vehicles. With the increase of knife violence in the UK, the safety of cab drivers is paramount, as no one knows when someone violent will step into their cab and their job can take them to some places of great danger.

The groundbreaking fabric hopes to make driving safer, and is now also being used to manufacture cut resistant clothing for emergency services, police, military, private security professions, prisons as well as metal pressing and glass handling industries worldwide.