Satellite navigation systems have revolutionised and improved the driving experience for millions of people worldwide, but the technology is far from foolproof. If you’re heading out on the road in unfamiliar territory, your Sat Nav could come in very handy – just make sure you add a dose of common sense and experience when putting your faith in its predictions.
Sat Navs are the 21st century equivalent of road maps, but the technology offers more than just an on-board road atlas: it will also make suggestions of the best routes to help you avoid traffic and get to your destination quicker. Unfortunately, like many technologies, the systems can make errors, some due to bugs and glitches and others occasionally due to human error.
Because GPS systems have to rely on pre-existing maps that can become outdated over time, you could find that roads are not where you expected them to be – especially in Ireland, where new roads tend to be built faster than map makers can write them down. At worst, you could even find yourself hundreds of miles off course because your navigation system thought you meant Lille, Belgium rather than Lille, France.
The latter was the case for an unfortunate group of tourists from Gloucestershire, UK, heading on a shopping trip to France, who ended up in the town in Belgium with the same name after their driver entered it wrong into the computer. A similar discrepancy often affects those wishing to pay their respects at the revered Catholic shrine at Lourdes, who end up at the less famous Pyrenees village of Lourde without a statue of the Virgin in sight.
Sat Navs don’t just fall prey to errors overseas, though – that’s why you should always check the product before you buy, or before trusting its judgement on long journeys. You can usually test GPS systems in the shop you’re buying from, entering addresses or familiar journeys to see how well it handles routes you know like the back of your hand.
So how can you best protect yourself against the often-clumsy Sat Nav? The best way is to always bring along a map in your glove compartment, plus a torch if you’re planning on driving at night, and this mix between traditional and cutting-edge should get you where you’re hoping to be with a minimum of fuss. If you are planning on taking long journeys, it’s also a good idea to get your car serviced to reduce your chances of breaking down in unfamiliar areas, and taking care of any windscreen cracks before they pose a serious risk to your driving.
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