Friday, August 29, 2008

A funny satnav tale

Having picked up more than one newspaper this morning I notice there all contain a similar story about how satellite navigation systems have made thickos of people. No longer, so the report goes, can we read a map, and as a result we lose crucial information about the places we are in. An examples the Times gave was that a satnav would not tell you you were pacing Stonehenge like a map would (although you would hope as someone drove along the 303 they'd recognise it.

The reason I'm mentioning it is that it just so happens that I heard a very funny satnav tale the other day. I shan't name names but someone I know was travelling from the Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire area to the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. They punched the details into the satnav and off they went. Unfortunately he did not actually put the route in properly and had actually just reprogrammed a previous destination that was in the depths of Surrey.

What did this person do? He listened to the satnav, took every turning it told him to take and was completely obliviously to the fact that he was heading into Surrey and completely the wrong direction. It was only when he telephoned the person he was meeting and said "I'm here, where are you" and they said "I'm here too, where are you?" that he discovered he was hundreds of miles away.

When I was told this story I cannot deny that I laughed so hard I nearly pee'd my pants. How someone could be directed, as I presume he was, along the M25 and then onto the M3 where there are signs for Bournemouth, Brighton etc etc and not realise they were a long way from Kent was beyond my comprehension. THe point though is that the newspaper reports today are 100% spot on. Satnav makes you stupid, although it's possible that you might already be stupid too.

Incidentally, if you're wondering if I have a satnav, the simple answer is no. I have considered it a few times because I wanted a new toy, but then realised that if I got one I would have to go somewhere that I didn't know to justify buying it, and anyway, I have a road atlas in the back of the car (albeit it a little old).

22 comments:

Bonetired said...

Yahhooo Someone else like me who eschews sat nav .. and we are both techies! I have a road map as well, normally the cheapest that I can find - but it works!. I buy the 1:25,0000 OS map of any place that I am going to on holiday - and these are not just informative but frequently works of art ....

You don't need a bloody sat nav!

Steve Piercy said...

Whilst the 1:25,000,000,000,000... maps might be pretty (and pretty useful) the satnav has been a boon for people like me who travel about selling for a living. Since the days when I was in direct sales, having to get to appointments an hour's drive away with only an hour's notice, to now, as I navigate my way from business estate to business estate. I daresay I could 'get by' with maps (particularly if coupled with googlemaps/mapquest/multimap prints) but the simple fact is that satnave makes the whole process quicker and easier.

But yes, you need to have a brain in your head. Take this morning at 3.30 as I tried to follow a diversion on my way to Glasgow Prestwick airport: The diversion signs were missing, and the satnav initially tried to take me the long-way-round (via Ibrox stadium). My basic knowledge of Glasgow geography told me something was wrong, so I pointed the car in the rough direction of the airport and within a few moments my route was updated to the correct (and faster by 10 minutes) plan.

So, you're right, you don't need a bloody satnav. But sometimes it's bloody handy.

Bessie said...

"You don't need a bloody sat nav!"

I don't, you don't, but some people do! My stepmother-in-law, having lived on the borders of Kent and Sussex for several years, still didn't know whether Dover was to the east or west of her house. My father-in-law used to enrage my husband by constantly asking detailed directions to places rather than using a road atlas: he would have to memorise a list of towns and roads. Now they have sat nav, and can venture into the outside world without fear of getting lost!

As for me, I use Google Maps print-outs to find addresses by road, Ordnance Survey maps for hiking and sight-seeing, and gorgeous second-hand Bartholomew half-inch contour maps for fun.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

I'm with Steve Piercy. If I have to be somewhere for an appointment, I'll always use the satnav to get me there.

Being slightly more anal about it than most, I'd plan the route with Tyre and stick it into my satnav as an itinerary. Then you know you're going to the right place. ;o)

But as long as there is no rush to get back, I'll find my own way back, often without even a map and always without a motorway.

Norfolk Blogger said...

We borrow a Sat Nav of my father in law if we are going on a long journey, not because I need directions (I can get anywhere in the coutnry without a map and always ahve), but because it bleeps for speed cameras, which I find very useful.

Richard B said...

I agree with Steve. Like any technology, it needs an intelligent mind and a knowledge of what you are doing to be effective, but if you have those things, it is a bloody effective tool. How much safer to be guided street-by-street through an unfamiliar town, listening to detailed instructions with both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. I don't regret the days when I would navigate city traffic with a street map on the passenger seat, constantly looking for street names and relating them to the map, while trying to spot pedestrians and stray animals. There is a danger that we come to rely on the technology and forget how to use a bit of common sense - but you could say that about anything, from a toaster to a computer. As an assistant and guide, rather than a master, satnav is a brilliant invention. I am going to France next week, and I have already decided that I don't like the route it is suggesting. But I will simply ignore it at the crusial point, and it will recalculate a better route within seconds. And warn me of speed traps on the way! Go satnav!

Scoundrel said...

My Missus shouts at me for not following the satnav. I have a head full of shortcuts, which my satnav dislikes and on numerous occassions it says "route recalculation" or "turn back". I always check the map first and have the satvav on just to annoy my passengers with its constant moaning. Those who know me will know I am famed for my 'shortcuts' haha

JuliaM said...

"I have considered it a few times because I wanted a new toy, but then realised that if I got one I would have to go somewhere that I didn't know to justify buying it..."

That's exactly the same reason I haven't bought one yet!

Oh, well, I'll have to buy one of those little indoor remote-control model helicopters instead...

DC said...

I heard the other day that the Canadians are stopping teaching navigation to their armed forces. Let's just hope they put the right address into their Satnav if they ever decide to invade someone.

archroy said...

Crime prevention tip: As well as hiding your satnav and carefully cleaning the sucker-marks off your windscreen, always leave a large road atlas, open at the local page, on your passenger seat when away from your car.

Richard Holloway said...

It's a bit of both, I don't use satnav, but then I'm on a motorbike so it's a bit more difficult. However I do use google maps to get a basic fix (Junctions, road names/numbers etc) then consult it for that crucial last 5 miles of a journey. It's brilliant.

However, I do find it amusing that the spokesman for Ordnance Survey said: "These resources are good at telling you the fastest way to get somewhere. What they don’t give you is the context of where you are going."

Perhaps we would all be aware of these things if the Ordnance Survey got into the 21st Century and put their maps online in an easily accessible and usable format. Have you tried using their online maps? Bloody useless. Do they list where the local pubs are and give me links to their websites, or can I click on the church and get their website. No I can't. I might listen to their whining if they offered something better. They don't.

As to the stupidity of people blindly following satnavs, I think we've found a valuable tool to find all those people who do what they're told like stupid sheep. They were always there, they just did a good job of hiding it. Now we can humiliate them for the idiots they are.

Cyclefree said...

Can't see the attraction of sat nav either. Maps are wonderful things and learning to read one also gives you a sense of place and direction which is also useful when driving, walking or cycling somewhere. If people don't understand maps how on earth do they walk round new cities? As for giving one as a present, what lunacy is that? Imagine if your loved one gave you an A-Z as a present? Still I know I'm being old-fashioned. When I learnt geography it was all about reading maps and understanding how rivers/volcanoes developed. Now it's all about how to recycle your rubbish.

Elby the Beserk said...

Satnav regularly leads 40 ton lorries to the far too low bridge down the road from us, whence they have to reverse up the far too narrow road. This despite the "low bridge" signs.

What's with SatNav? It's fun to get lost - I do it all the time down here in Somerset, and highly recommend it. What's with all the fucking hurry these days? Hasn't got us anywhere, has it?

Lola said...

Real Blokes don't listen to Satnavs or female navigators. The difference is that satnavs don't gloat.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

It's fun to get lost - I do it all the time down here in Somerset, and highly recommend it. What's with all the fucking hurry these days? Hasn't got us anywhere, has it?

What he said! :o)

(Although, as someone who likes a nice bit of road, it's good to use a satnav to get you there so that you don't miss the bits you want to try out.)

Andy said...

I cycle to work along some country lanes and see satnav-inspired idiotry on quite a regular basis.

The best location is a ford across the river Blackwater on the Hampshire / Berkshire border. People are regularly directed to it even though it is basically impassable to anything but very large 4x4s.

Now, being directed there is one thing, and you would expect most people to turn around and go a different way. But no. Plenty of people then launch their vehicle right into the water and get stuck on the broken up slabs clearly visible just under the surface, or swamp their engines.

One time I was laughing at a delivery van that had done just this. Just then, the RAC rescue van appeared - on the other side of the ford. His satnav had taken him there assuming he could traverse the ford...

judith said...

Elby - ever tried to find Nempnett Thrubwell down your way? We did it, without a satnav, just to say we'd been to a place with such a great name.

Crickley Hill Man said...

Aspect of satnav you may not have considered: it's a brilliant teaching aid. I drive a lot in London:with satnav available to give me the confidence that I can't get too lost, I have pieced together all sorts of bits of London that turned out to be only one linking road apart, that I did not know about. After 3 years my knowledge is immeasurably improved and I get about faster.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't just make idiots of drivers. It makes idiots of their bosses.

Every time someone sends me a car, the SatNav takes them to the wrong place. The first time it happened it took me 45 minutes on the mobile phone to get the driver, who appeared unable to read road signs or recognise ordinary street landmarks such as pubs and pillar-boxes, the necessary 200 yards to get him into line of sight (via three or four miles of driving round in circles).

So since I've taken to telling the hack who's booking the car that satnav won't help and insisting they take full details of how to find the place (which isn't in fact at all difficult). To no avail. I get to the end of my description, and they invariably ask - "And what postcode is that?"

The error is consistent. I now know where they are, when they do arrive. It is just that they don't. But they insist that they do, because they also don't understand the subtler distinctions in London street names, or even which way north and south are. I'm reduced to yelling down the phone: "Stay where you are!" and walking round the block.

It has occurred to me that maybe it is only the standard Mercedes satnav that's so defective and maybe I'd have more luck asking not to be picked up by a Merc - but I'm too fearful I'd never get a car at all with that stipulation.

trevorsden said...

Thikkos are thick by definition - give em anything, a video recorder, a pen and paper, or whatever - its easily proved.

Sat navs give you warnings of speed cameras, they let you know a distance before you get there where the next turn is.

Above all if you are in the middle of somewhere strange it gets you on your way for the first few miles until the road become more clear.

Shock horror they are not perfect.

Good old maps - yep they are dead easy to read and drive at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Best Satnav story is the one about the two yahs (I think they were distant relatives of the sainted Diana) who got a chauffeur-driven car to take them to "Stamford Bridge" - which is apparently the usual nickname for some football stadium somewhere in the South - possibly London but why would I know.

Anyway the guy took them to Stamford Bridge, which as any fule no is a town in Yorkshire, so they missed the game.

And of course, they were too dim to notice he was heading in completely the wrong direction.

Arf arf.

(Of course I realise this might be nothing to do with SatNavs - but i bet it was)

Anonymous said...

SatNavs don't make people stupid, the mistake being made is by stupid people thinking they'll compensate for their inadequacies.

I'm about to get a SatNav as I'm about to start a new job. I know how to get there but where a SatNav really comes in to its own is helping you to navigate the one way systems so beloved of local authorities these days.