Re: SatNav Vs The Knowledge
"No...those aren't the sort of questions that you get asked. You are given a start and end point, and have to, pretty much without hesitation, describe a route between the two, detailing lane discipline/compliance, etc. Ideally you should be "on the cotton", i.e. if you stretched a line of thread between the two points on a map, your chosen route follows that straight line as closely as is practicable."
Obviously, I wasn't being literal there. But you can get asked equivalents of those questions - it's entirely up to the examiner. Incidentally, cabbies aren't supposed to be 'on the cotton' unless that's also the fastest route somewhere.
There are other elements to the Knowledge as well. The points of interest that have to be memorised - well, not that hard to memorise a few hundred POIs anyway, but again, some of them are obscure, some are well-known, and the examiner gets to pick which he asks you about.
"Through the Knowledge, the licensed cabbie will know every street within a 10 mile radius of Charing Cross, and the location of every hotel, embassy, and other significant building, plus a knowledge of the geography of Greater London. "
It's not ten miles. Effectively they know the area inside Zone 1 pretty well, and that's about it bar the trunk roads outside that. Lots of Londoners can match them, as I said.
"These guys literally spend years out there on the streets learning this stuff"
No, that's the myth. The average time to pass The Knowledge for those who ever pass is under six months, including making all the appearances (which takes a few months minimum). The average time per applicant is a few years. That's because the whole thing's a scam, and many applicants never stand any chance of passing, however perfectly they know the Knowledge.
"I think it's actually one of the great British institutions."
Many people do. It's actually just an epic piece of marketing.