Transport For London, the organisation governing transport in London, has been conducting an experiment to alter the minds of its world-famous black cab drivers, using electrodes.
‘The London cabbie has a global reputation for deep conservatism and entrenchment,’ a TFL spokesman didn’t really say. ‘But times are changing very quickly. They need a radical update.’ The aim is to prepare cabbies for the new TX electric taxi.
‘The difficulty for our cabbies,’ the TFL spokesman continued to not actually say, ‘is that they’ve spent a long time driving around in a diesel taxi whose roots stretch back to the 1950s. As a result, their worldview is often locked in that era.’
Electrodes attached to a cab driver’s head are linked to a powerful on-board computer running a complex algorithm constructed from old copies of the Daily Mail, the London Evening Standard, and other historic newspapers. The equipment can locate residual opinions on the blitz, the price of bacon, England’s victory in the 1966 World Cup Final, and the late Queen Mother (God bless her), and remove them with controlled streams of neutrons.
‘This is not like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ the TFL spokesman absolutely didn’t say for legal reasons. ‘We can zap these old ideas without damaging the cabbie’s incredible knowledge of London’s backstreets, or removing stories about famous people who were once in the back of the cab and didn’t leave a tip.’
One of the first drivers to be recalibrated for the TX was this man:
I had a right weirdo in the back of the cab once.
Carbolics hailed Mr Follen for a ride to London’s fashionable New Bond Street. Our man praised the new cab’s quietness, smoothness, improved passenger space, better driving position, safety features, lower running costs (over a three-year lease plan), proper disabled access, and its measured ability to lower stress levels in London cabbies. He did this without ever mentioning our dear departed Queen of Hearts, suggesting that the TFL initiative has been highly successful.
For the return journey, your correspondent took the wheel, and a slightly arse-about-face route, but noted an almost Bentley-like ride of sophisticated firmness. This in stark contrast to the outgoing diesel taxi, which had a ride like a road drill.
In fact (serious bit), the TX is the most comprehensive update of the London Black Cab since the end of rationing. Although the ‘traditional’ models provided excellent photo opportunities for American tourists, along with a Beefeater and a piss-stained red phone box, they were in fact a bit crap. The electrical taxi is entirely new, and draws on drivetrain and safety technology from Volvo.
It is all-electric in normal use but also features a three-cylinder 1.5-litre range extender to ensure our tired cabbie can get to the golf course at the end of a long day. The aluminium body and chassis are bespoke. Nothing is carried over from the mediaeval model except one of the internal yellow grab handles that you hang on to when trying not to be sick in the back.
The London cab has made a quantum leap from a black-and-white Michael Caine film to the modern connected world. All we have to do now is get rid of prawn cocktail crisps and we'll be almost up to date.
The excellent Mr Follen sums it up perfectly in this short video. That’ll be 10 quid please, guv.