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The Joy of Satnav
will a paper map do?
Waze and Satnavs
One of the best uses of technology for me has been the satnav. When driving, it’s good to have the directions read out in good time. Like many things, there can be a downside, and I will get to that shortly.
My car doesn’t have a built-in system, so I use my iPhone clipped in a cradle. It works just fine. My preferred app is Waze. Google has bought this app, but thankfully, as of now, they have left it as a separate app. Waze is run by its community of users, of whom there are many millions worldwide. Here in the UK, there must be a vast number, as on the screen, you can see users who have allowed their position to be seen moving along the roads. A quick search on Google says there are four million in the UK until 2022, more by now, I am sure.
Users are called Wazers and can report incidents on the road. Often on the motorway, the sound of “vehicle stopped on hard shoulder”, “object in the road”, “pothole reported”, and many other things are heard. If the incident has cleared, Wazers will press the “not here” button to update the system. It is a totally free app.
Best of all, though, is its quick ability to reroute if traffic has built up ahead or stopped, and it will find a faster alternative route. The millions of users (plus, I presume, with data from Google Maps users) make Waze a really efficient system. Wazers can also edit maps to suggest corrections and add new roads or layouts faster than anyone. This is why I use Waze on mid to long journeys, even when I know the route well.
There is one element, though, that I come unstuck with. This is not a Waze problem; it’s a human one for relying on the satnav. It is easy to enter the destination place into the system and press the ‘go button’. Let me give you an example.
Mrs M and I were staying in Buxton in Derbyshire. We wanted to visit a village and explore it, which was a few miles away and somewhere we had not visited. I added the place name in the search box of the satnav (not Waze at the time), and away we went. We climbed higher and higher out of Buxton, the highest town in England, standing at 1100 feet above sea level. I was already beginning to think something was not quite right with our direction when we reached a viewpoint where motorists could park. I pulled in. Down below was the expanse of the flatland of Cheshire and aircraft flying below us to land at Manchester Airport!
Checking the satnav showed we were heading to Liverpool Docks to catch a ferry to Northern Ireland! Yes, you guessed it. There is a place there with the same name as the village we wanted to drive to. Of course, this could not have happened if I had been using a physical map and writing down or memorising the route.
My lesson was learned until a few weeks ago when I was travelling back home and clicked the wrong place in the list of saved destinations. I think it’s called “Fat Finger Syndrome”. This time, I was well on the way home when Waze diverted me off the M5, which it has done regularly due to traffic around Bristol, so that didn’t concern me.
My ETA to home was the same time as usual. This time, though, I seemed to be heading too far east after leaving the motorway on a different exit than before. I stopped to check and saw I was heading towards Devizes (not my home), a setting I had used a few weeks earlier. I’m afraid complacency had struck, and seeing that most of my route and arrival time was the same at the start, I didn’t see the final place name. Doh! In the end, I realised in time and rerouted before it made much of a difference. This was, fortunately, due to the fact that I was driving in an area of some familiarity.
I think it would be nice to buy a new, up-to-date road atlas; I have thrown all my old ones away. A number of reasons to purchase one come to mind. One is in case of a technical issue, and the other is to get an overview of the areas I am driving through. A satnav screen gives a narrow view of the corridor through which drivers pass, and town names are not seen other than perhaps on the direction signs along the route. It would be good to note the places I am driving past, just in case I am going in the wrong direction or have the feeling I am, and there would be some background information to help me.
What’s your experience of using a satnav? Have you become reliant on them? Please leave a comment in the box below.
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