Forget sat nav: my primary school promised me I’d have a hover car by the year 2000. The liars.

I fear for future generations, I really do.

They’ll already be hampered with giant thumbs thanks to the genetic legacy handed down to them by forefathers who spent 23 out of every 24 hours texting and now they’re destined to drive aimlessly over cliffs because no one in the world will be able to read a map thanks to in-car satellite navigation systems.

A recent report revealed that UK drivers trust their sat-nav systems more than they trust their own eyes; just allow a few seconds for that sentence to sink into your brain before you take to your bed and weep for a week over the lost innocence of maps.

In the past, sat-nav owners have driven into the River Avon and to the edge of a 100-foot drop because their tracking gizmos told them to. An ambulance crew transferring a patient 12 miles from Ilford to Brentwood drove 200 miles in the wrong direction because they were following directions from their sat-nav system.

At some point, surely, you’d think they might have noticed that the half hour journey was taking around four hours longer than usual. But no – it’s this kind of blind obedience that helped Hitler get a foothold in Germany.

The real irony is that the youth of today (my descent into the world of the bitter old goat continues apace – next I’ll be berating the charts for not having any songs with lyrics) absolutely hate being told what to do, yet they’re all queuing up like lemmings to buy a box which tells them what to do ALL THE TIME.

It doesn’t even convert into a TV when it’s not barking orders at you.

If it’s not telling you what to do, it’s telling you just how depressing the road ahead will be; roadworks, traffic jams, accidents, hairpin bends, hurricanes, plagues of locusts – they all lie ahead.

Frankly, I’d rather not know. Being stuck in a motionless line of traffic is the only chance I get to have some of this “me” time I’m always being told about in glossy magazines.

This week, while out and about in my car, two drivers allowed their vehicles to roll backwards into mine while fiddling with their sat-nav.

One had the good grace to wave at me apologetically, the other simply drove away, probably because his sat-nav told him to.

Personally, I like living on the razor’s edge and relying only on a road atlas bought from a Jet garage in 1988 as a means to convey me from one location to another. Isn’t part of the joy of a family day trip the prospect of spending at least a quarter of the journey aimlessly winging it and lying to the children about knowing precisely where you are?

Admittedly, this policy has led to some spectacular “short cuts” through Wales on the way from Norwich to King’s Lynn, but at least I was the master of my own destiny and to my credit, I didn’t end up in a river or dangling from the edge of a cliff.

By the time my children have cars (which, by the way, will be never unless they arrange a police and paramedic escort for every journey they undertake) they won’t need to drive at all, they’ll just get in a car, telepathically relate where they want to go to some kind of gigantic brain on the dashboard and then sit back while the on-board robot serves them moon pills and space juice and drives them straight into the nearest reservoir.

Showing my kids a map and asking them if they could use it to get from a to b will be like giving you or I a mangle, a bar of soap and a tin bucket and asking us to spend the entire day scrubbing the family’s smalls.

They’ll have braying computers built into their toilets to remind them to wipe their bums and wash their hands and a microchip in their forehead telling them when to breathe.

Before sat-nav salesmen grab their green biros to point out to me that their systems are marvellous and I’m the kind of technophobe who makes the sign of a cross if anyone uses so much as a microwave oven in my eyeshot, let me point out that new research proves that I’m right.

Computer Which? a magazine for fearsomely clever boffins who don’t fly into a panic if people start talking to them about jpegs and motherboards commissioned a survey to see just how reliable sat-nav systems are.

The research revealed that an £8 road atlas beat a high-tech satellite navigation system on a simple 70 mile journey, despite the latter costing more than 28 times the price of the book.

Granted, the AA book didn’t look quite as good mounted on the dashboard, but it worked, although to be fair, the survey did note “you need a level-headed passenger with map-reading skills” which cancels out a great deal of hollow-skulled halfwits to whom maps are like flat pack instruction manuals written in Sanskrit.

In a manner of speaking, sat-nav systems are a perfect example of Darwinism – if you blindly drive your car into a ford or to the edge of a cliff because a jumped-up calculator tells you to then you’re proving the theory that only the fittest deserve to survive.


10 Responses to “Forget sat nav: my primary school promised me I’d have a hover car by the year 2000. The liars.”

  1. 1 Ram Venkatararam
    January 15, 2009 at 2:43 am

    Well Said!!! If you ever need a map of lower New York State, drop by my convenience store. I have one in my lost and found and it is looking for a good home. Thanks for the post

  2. 2 Sirius
    January 15, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    My sat-nav is a fold-up map, but I’m with you….

    Where IS my hovercar excatly?? And my personal robots, for that matter!

    Oh the lies! Oh the lies!

    At least I don’t have a chip in my brain [yet].

    –Sirius Knott

  3. 3 Wolter
    January 16, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    While you rail against technology, your energy is misdirected.
    What you really should be railing against is good old-fashioned stupidity.

    Yes, that’s right. Stupidity.

    You hear about really stupid people all the time. They can’t read properly, can’t speak properly, can’t drive properly, can’t operate firearms without shooting themselves, can’t figure out when to push or pull a door, yak on their phone or text or eat or watch TV or read comics or fumble in the glove box instead of watching the road… the list goes on.

    These people are borderline helpless, and are even MORE likely to blindly obey than the rest of the population (and experiments have shown that the vast majority of people WILL blindly obey orders by someone they perceive to be a person of authority).

    So no, navi systems are not the cause of this mayhem; it is simply the ancient ritual of a stupid person doing a stupid thing in a dangerous way, as has happened in all ages with all levels of technology.

    You may prefer an atlas, and the long hours of getting lost because the “road” that was marked in a manner that makes it look like a motorway turned out to be a tiny alley that you missed somewhere 10 miles back (or worse, was remove altogether).
    I, however, have had the pleasure of using a navi system that actually works, and after 2 years of using it in Japan, I can say that I’d much prefer to see the navi’s plotted course before I verify it in my road atlas. I also like to see where road work or accidents are happening, because I’d rather get on my way than spend hours in gridlock.

    Technology changes. Stupidity is eternal. Don’t blame the technology.

    And you’d be doing your children a grave disservice to forbid them from driving without a padded crib to “keep them safe”. A big part of maturity comes through dealing with unsafe situations.

  4. 4 womaninblack
    January 16, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    I bet your Sat Nav told you to post that comment, didn’t it?
    Those damnable machines will stop at nothing until they rule the world.

  5. 5 Wolter
    January 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Yes, it even spel cheqd it 4 me!

  6. 6 womaninblack
    January 16, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    The time to start worrying is when it starts offering its opinion. Or telling you to kill. When this happens, tap it sharply with your map and threaten to take it to a new housing estate that hasn’t been programmed in yet.

  7. 7 Wolter
    January 16, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Oh, it didn’t like it when you said that.

    It didn’t like it one bit at all.

  8. 8 womaninblack
    January 16, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Now it’s angry.
    The Lord alone knows where it will direct you now.

  9. 9 Wolter
    January 16, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Hang on… I think it’s up to something…

    Yes, I’ve managed to talk it down a bit and it – *bzzzzt!

  10. 10 womaninblack
    January 16, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    No Wolter! Walk towards the light!
    I don’t want to let technology come between me and my best ever poster!

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