Too close to home
I was driving back to my quiet corner of southwest London on Saturday afternoon and passed Sandown Park race course, which I noticed was holding the PocketGPSWorld SatNav Expo.
I didn't give it much more thought. Most weekends that don't feature horse racing mean all sorts of shows and exhibitions and it was nice to see an event whose content I'd mostly understand - unlike, say, the frequent VW enthusiast get-togethers or gem shows.
But later that night I was struck by just how important GPS and sat-nav have become. Although I live in London, the neighbourhood where our house stands has little through traffic, so it's usually peaceful. Not on Saturday night it wasn't.
Heavy roadworks on the high street at the end of the road (which is, even on an average day nothing short of traffic hell) meant cars doing anything to try to find alternative routes. I noticed a steady trickle of them turn into a heavier flow of vehicles, many featuring drivers intently looking at sat-nav devices.
I knew there was no through road anywhere in our maze of streets but they had other ideas. In fact, I started to wonder whether they were their ideas at all. Was that little computer on their dashboard doing all the thinking?
We've all heard stories about the impassable ford in the countryside that has snared many a motorist because their sat-navs showed it as a way through. Or the ambulance whose GPS antics took it - and I'm assuming a geographically challenged crew - miles out of their way.
But it feels a little different when it's on your own doorstep.
These systems will improve. Don't take this as a rant against this type of technology or technology in general. But like with the early days of calculators you should keep your manual wits about you too.
As a coda to this, the following day saw things go from bad to worse. The roadworks were compounded or perhaps replaced (I couldn't tell) by a "serious incident involving two cars", to quote a nearby policeman, that saw the whole of the high street closed.
As vehicles hit gridlock, many also funnelled up side streets. But on this occasion, I couldn't help but notice many an A-Z opened on drivers' and passengers' laps. Sat-nav hasn't taken over just yet.