Like many other geeks I have lost the ability to read a map, so used am I to having a posh if slightly robotic lady telling me where to turn during a road trip. SatNav is a wonderful thing, in the right hands, such as Eva Ericsson and the boffins at the Lund Institute of Technology in Sweden who reckon it could be environmentally important as well.

They have developed a device which not only calculates the quickest route, but the most fuel efficient as well. By considering such data as fuel consumption, street width and typical traffic flow it can, I am told, save an average of 8.2 percent on your fuel bills, and less fuel has to be better for the environment.

But I can’t help thinking that it might also be a good idea to remove not only SatNav devices, but access to motor vehicles, from the terminally dumb drivers that populate our planet. By way of illustration I have compiled a list of what I reckon must be the six most stupid SatNav users in the history of the technology, but please do feel free to let me know if you have heard of any even more lacking in the SatNav sense department.

In reverse order:


Local farmers are making a healthy profit, charging motorists £25 ($50) a time to remove their vehicles from a deep ford after they have been left stranded in four feet of water thanks to naff SatNav routing. After all, how is a smart computer controlled device meant to know that the road always floods after heavy rain? Of course, you might have expected the drivers to spot the many warning signs and the fact that they were about to drive through many feet of water. Doh!


A motorist in Sydney, Australia did exactly as he was told when directed to ‘turn right now’ despite this causing him to exit the highway at least 100 feet ahead of his turn off and enter a building site. Unfazed by this detour, and obeying the SatNav, he drove up some stairs in his sports utility vehicle and ended up crashing into a toilet. Some bog standard common sense might have come in handy on this occasion.


A German motorist heading along a very busy road towards Bremen suddenly swerved to the left when instructed so to do, and ended up stuck on a tram railway track. Local police say that dozens of trams were delayed while a tow truck was called to remove the Audi. They should have left it there and given the guy a season ticket for the railway, much safer.


A woman driving between Portsmouth and London in the UK managed to point her BMW the wrong way up the busy A3M carriageway, for an astonishing 14 miles, in the fast lane and dodging oncoming traffic. When stopped by police she told them she was following her SatNav instructions. Which is odd, as mine has never instructed me to drive like a drunken loon on the wrong side of the road.


A London Ambulance Service crew transferring a patient the 12 miles between hospitals in Essex used their on-board SatNav for the 30 minute journey. Unfortunately, this sent them via Manchester on a 200 mile round trip that took 8 hours. I’m not sure which is most worrying, that an ambulance should be equipped with such a dumb system or such dumb drivers who didn’t realize they were heading the wrong way for four hours and on the outskirts of Manchester.

And at number 1:

The most stupid, and certainly most dangerous, of all SatNav routes has to be the one that directs drivers between Swaledale and Wensleydale in North Yorkshire, via the suitably named village of Crackpot. Unfortunately, the steep and twisty unlit track happens to run along the edge of a sheer drop down a 100 foot cliff. To make matters worse, many drivers get stuck on the narrow road or its many small boulders and then attempt to reverse perilously close to the edge. So far nobody has plummeted over, but there is hope yet that natural selection may reduce the stupid SatNav user pool…


I have Microsoft's Streets and Trip product, along with their GPS receiver, which I've used several times on business trips with no problems like that. I think the key to effectively using those systems is that you have to actually continue to use your brain. I've found that any time a new technology becomes widely available, it takes the general population a little while to realize that it isn't going to prevent them from having to use the ol' grey matter. This blog entry has reaffirmed my conviction that there is no more powerful - yet easily turned off - computer than the human brain.

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