Satnav Summit – haven’t they got anything better to do?

I should have been looking where I was driving not at my satnav. Thanks to

I was just thinking it’s a while since I have been prompted to write a blog post and then this morning the Today program has a short feature on Norman Bakers proposed Satnav Summit and I’m awake and frothing (awful thought that you may not want to dwell on for too long).

Apparently while the austerity agenda is savaging public services and job prospects across private and public sector  look grim, DfT think we need a “summit” to resolve problems with satnav systems.

“Norman Baker will host the Government’s first ‘Satnav Summit’ to thrash out solutions to end the misery caused when lorry and car drivers follow out of date directions from their satnavs.”

Now when did the government get involved in the “misery” caused by drivers following out of date road atlases or A-Z’s? Is anyone really “miserable” or is this an attention grabbing initiative prompted by hype and anecdote?

Of course the prevalence of satnav within cars and trucks does present an opportunity for smarter journey routes and could potentially minimise the the occasional truck that gets stuck under a bridge or in a too narrow village. A good starting point would be for highways authorities to publish a simple data set of bridge heights and perhaps one of width restrictions, it would be relatively simple to conflate these with the map data used within satnav systems and would avoid the need for the TomToms and Nokias to try to capture and maintain this data. Ahh but that would require yet more #opendata and quite possible would stumble on the dreaded derived data the moment the data got into the hands of commercial navigation companies. Note to Mr Baker, you may want to discuss this with Mr Maude, Mr Cable and Mr Osborne prior to your summit.

The bigger challenge is how to manage the complexity of discouraging (or even restricting) drivers of cars and trucks from using routes through villages or residential areas to avoid traffic delays. Apparently Highways Authorities are going to have new powers to reclassify roads and DfT thinks this will enable them to divert traffic flows.

” (DfT) are allowing local authorities to reclassify roads – ensuring A roads are placed where they want traffic to run and lowering the category of road in places they want traffic to avoid”

In London we are plagued by speed bumps and width restrictions which have been installed for safety reasons and to discourage traffic from using our residential streets as cut throughs, if you are an ambulance or fire engine driver or a local resident you may think these physical measures are a mixed blessing. It will be interesting to see how they propose to manage the difference between someone wanting to drive through a village or restricted area because they think it’s a time saving route and someone who wants to drive through that village as a tourist, possibly stopping to spend money with local businesses. I’m not sure how the satnav suppliers can be held responsible for people choosing  to drive on routes that cause “misery” to local residents or how they could implement any local authority applied restrictions without hampering essential services and deliveries from making use of satnav systems.

Surely when authorities try to divert vehicles away from a route or area they are just shifting the problem to somewhere else? Won’t the people who live or drive on or near the rerouted ratrun be the new recipients of “misery”? Isn’t this a zero sum game?

I guess this will play well with rural communities but may not have much relevance to those of us living in the cities. Now what are the voting patterns of those who are suffering the “misery” of satnav misdirection?

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