OPINION: I was just thinking...that the satnav is taking over

09:03 16 March 2014

The satnav is taking over

The satnav is taking over


I was just thinking...about the subjugation of the individual’s independence to the dictates of a new, mechanical god.

The humble satnav, my friends, is taking over. I read a story about the new Luton to Dunstable Guided Busway that, on the surface of things, beggars belief. Despite it not looking like a road and despite it having flashing signs that say ‘Busway No Entry’ a staggering two or three cars a week end up driving down it illegally. This has prompted even further expenditure on top of the £91m set-up costs in order to install preventative smart-bollards with vehicle recognition software. Oh how the humble bollard has changed!

After a moment’s pause for reflection, however, it is not all that surprising. It’s not that folk are stupid [though some of us undoubtedly are], it’s not that we deliberately contravene regulations [though some of us surely do], it’s just that we are weak-willed. We have allowed our individual free will to be annexed by these little electronic dictators and have waved goodbye to our ability to act as self-contained rational entities.

Now I know that Bedford is a long way off, over the county border, and that they do things differently there. But pause a minute and think a bit more profoundly about how this electro-gismo has reduced each and everyone of us who takes advantage of their encyclopaedic memories to a state of slavish submission to their micro-chipped will. Stories are legion. Lorries are forever getting stuck and doing damage to railway bridges because the e-fascist has told them to go that way. Think of Baldock railway bridge. Recently the victim of yet another sat-drone instructing a brain-washed pantechnicon driver to proceed despite the height limit, it is now covered in reflective yellow signage informing all and sundry that it would be very unwise to try and pass under the bridge if your vehicle is higher than the aperture through which you intend to go. The bridge itself now glows like a yellow inferno in an attempt to deter further mindless incursion into its supporting structure.

And what about all those stories we hear about cars driving down railway tracks and coaches ending up stuck down country lanes? The best one I heard recently was of a Syrian lorry driver transporting luxury cars from Turkey to Gibraltar who went on a 1,600 mile detour to Skegness. Apparently, the omniscient gadget confused the island off the Spanish mainland with the Lincolnshire bird sanctuary Gibraltar Point.

There is something completely insidious about the sat nav. I have always said so. I’ve resisted its lure with commendable fortitude. I have a very highly developed sense of direction, I can read a map. I don’t need what it has to offer. And on the few occasions that I’ve availed myself of its services I argue with the detested thing. I shall not take the third exit off the roundabout to some mispronounced thoroughfare because I know better. Nor shall I leave the motorway at this exit because a] it’s not a motorway and b] this isn’t the right place to turn off the road I’m actually driving along. Thank you very much. End of story. No don’t tell me to take a U-turn when possible. No I shan’t … shan’t … shan’t. Not listening! Not listening!

Then very strange things start to happen. You begin to doubt yourself and your own ability. Well it wouldn’t be saying turn left down what seems like someone’s private driveway unless it was really part of the public highway would it? It wouldn’t tell you you’re in the middle of a field, although you believed yourself to be on tarmac, unless you were, surely?

And suddenly there you are, or rather there you are not, sixteen hundred miles out of your way with a red face and curious residents muttering darkly about you not being from ‘round ‘ere. All you can do is blame a box on your dashboard.


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