In London, cab drivers undergo a grueling testing and memorization regime known ominously as "The Knowledge." Obtaining a license to drive one of the British capital's distinctive black cabs is so difficult that students often use motor scooters to get around and learn some 320 routes on 25,000 roads, a process that takes two to four years. They then need to take a completely random oral test, just to make sure they know their way about the city.
The Australian state of Victoria, meanwhile, is doing its best to match London's notorious standards. It recently announced new tests to "weed out" bad taxi drivers. The first round of exams were so challenging, though, that only one in 234 wanna-be cab drivers passed. Drivers are allowed to take the test twice before they're forced into a 12-month waiting period.
"There's 55 questions in each unit and you get an hour to do it," Karen Downie, the sole driver to pass the tests, said. "[It's] a lot of knowing your bus lanes and tram rules and how to deal with people with disabilities. Having done the test now myself, I'll be much better at helping others to prepare for it."
Some, though, are concerned that the exacting standards will lead to a shortage of cab drivers.
"If things don't change we're probably looking at a 25 percent reduction in the taxi fleet by Christmas," Stuart Overell, the COO of 13Cabs, told Yahoo! News Australia. That's a view disputed by Taxi Services Commissioner Graeme Samuel.
"What it indicates is that there has been poor training and poor assessment in the past," Samuel told Yahoo!, adding that drivers who fail this round of testing will still be re-accredited for 2015.
"Drivers, however, who come up for accreditation from the first of January next year and fail the test will have their accreditations removed," Samuels said. "Frankly 13Cabs is just being mischievous putting out that sort of nonsense."