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Never trust satnav

Never trust satnav

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The image above is of Google Maps. It shows where a campsite actually is, vs where Google thinks it is.

Maps have always had errors, either at production, or introduced over time through age. But, when we had to look at paper people tended to question the map, check it, and therefore catch errors.

Now, with the increasing reliance on turn-by-turn directions, that potential to catch error is decreased.

As an example, if you’re in Australia, voice-command Google to navigate to you “Lismore”. I did that, and it didn’t check with me whether I meant NSW, or Victoria. There’s a difference.

If all you do is stare at a screen, and think no further ahead than the next turn, then sooner or later you’ll either end up where you shouldn’t, or take routes you shouldn’t. And that could mean a minor inconvenience, or a life-threatening situation.

So here’s how to avoid satnav problems:

  1. Sense check – have an idea of where your location is, and which direction. Use an atlas or something. If you’re in Melbourne and driving to Lismore, then you should expect a trip of 3 or 4 hours, approximately west. And you should be aware of major towns on the way. So – does the satnav direction match that sense? And, the route there?
  2. Constantly be aware – reroutes, reboots etc can see your satnav take you places you shouldn’t. If you’re in a roadcar, and the sign says “4WD Only” or “Deep Ford” – don’t trust the satnav, think about a new route!
  3. Use multiple maps – the official government map for the campsite above has the correct location. That’s the most likely to be correct, so good to have it.
  4. Map age – check the map age, if shown. Newer is better of course.
  5. Read map-to-ground and ground-to-map – look at what you can see on the map and try and find it, or look at what’s on the ground and find it on the map.

Basically, the further you drive offroad, the less you can rely on satnav. If it is accurate, and it is increasingly effective, then great…but never rely on it, or assume it’ll be perfect. Always sense-check!

Robert Pepper Automotive journalist specialising in 4X4s, sportscars, camping and future tech.

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