SatNav Summit

News that the government is planning a satnav summit, to help discuss the issue of out-dated maps and high-profile instances of lorries and cars following incorrect directions, has not come soon enough for some.

We have all read about villages being blighted by inappropriate traffic in the press, and can all remember stories of lorries getting stuck beneath bridges or in tiny town centre high streets. Cars being driven into the sea or into muddy fields have often come up over the years too.

Why? Because, we are told, drivers have followed incorrectly mapped sat nav system.

The government has now had enough of this. Local Transport Minister Normal Baker is to host the first ‘Satnav Summit’, bringing highways authorities, mapping providers and satnav manufacturers together to discuss the issues involved and try to come up with some solutions and resolutions.

The intention is to help ensure the right vehicles are on the right roads.

The summit is to take place in March, and is well timed: the following month, local authorities will get new powers to dictate how their roads appear on maps. This reclassification, which will let them downgrade some inappropriate A-roads in their locality, will allow them to better direct traffic and ensure some of the long-running satnav issues are phased out.

The issues with satnav maps are far-reaching. It can take months for map updates to filter from local councils to satnav systems, which means thousands of drivers are following out-dated maps. Even if new maps are available, lots of drivers do not update their systems, either.

The summit aims to clarify and speed up these lines of communication.

Drivers still have a part to play, though. The RAC position is clear here: satnavs are only as good as the person interpreting the information. “If the road suddenly turns into a bumpy narrow lane, takes you to the edge of a cliff or to a river bank, it’s highly likely you are on the wrong road.”

Drivers should be more aware and not fully rely on the directions provided by the satnav system. But what about backup in unfamiliar locations? The RAC has a simple solution: always take a road atlas.

The government’s satnav summit will hopefully make life easier for all satnav users, and also help local towns blighted by inappropriate traffic finally ease the scourge on their neighbourhood. But drivers still have a part to play too: satnav is, after all, a route guidance system, rather than giving hard and fast route rules to be followed at whatever cost…