The Knowledge vs Uber vs sat-nav; which works best?

The Knowledge vs Uber vs sat-nav; which works best?
The Knowledge vs Uber vs sat-nav; which works best?

We tackle London’s chaotic streets three different ways, but which is the quickest?

Tackling city streets in a car can be stressful, particularly when you consider the sheer number of roadworks, jams, out-of-action lights and ‘incidents’ that all stack up to cause traffic chaos. Planning your route isn’t sufficient; you need to be on the ball and ready to detour at any given moment.

So, which is the best way to get from A to B? We decided to travel from Richmond station to Waterloo in London three times, using three different methods: a traditional black cab, an Uber taxi and our own car. The latter two would be equipped with sat-nav, while the driver of the former would rely on The Knowledge, the incredible databank of information and intuition that is the trademark of an official black cabbie.

One weekday morning, we hailed a black cab outside Richmond station. With local traffic piling up, we dived off down a sideroad almost immediately, and zigzagged to avoid crawling chaos to the A3, where the going got quicker. This was really helped by the fact that black cabs (and no other types of taxi) are allowed to use London bus lanes. We made good time and arrived at Waterloo refreshed and relaxed.

We hopped on the train back to Richmond and repeated the exercise, this time summoning a car via the Uber app. Uber is still operating in the capital, while the company appeals to keep its licence there. Driver Daahir took six minutes to arrive in his Vauxhall Zafira, and exhibited almost a sixth sense as to traffic problems en route. The Zafira’s ride was easier and quieter than the old black cab’s, and the sat-nav took us to Waterloo a different route, over the Hammersmith Flyover and down around Sloane Square.

When it came to driving our own Astra, we chose the Garmin DriveSmart 61 sat-nav, which for £249.95 offers a lifetime of UK and European map updates, traffic alerts, parking info and more. It sent us the same route as the Uber taxi, while the Garmin picked out traffic jams and offered us quicker routes as the journey went on. We anticipated heavy traffic around Parliament Square but the sat-nav urged us on; it was right, we were wrong. Waterloo loomed soon afterwards.

Driving yourself into London brings its own issues; you’ve got to pay extra to park, cover the Congestion Charge and possible emissions charges depending on your car, deal with the stress and more. However, this method did prove the quickest for us, and the only extra costs over the motor and sat-nav you already own are fuel plus wear and tear.

While the Uber was slower, it was still fairly cheap – and it was good to let someone else think about the driving and make any decisions en route. The faster option was the black cab; the cabbie’s incredible Knowledge got us to Waterloo only four minutes slower than our own, constantly updating Garmin sat-nav. On the down side, it was by far the most expensive option.

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