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Friday, 24 October 2014

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At the next exit, turn left and waste another £12m!

You don’t need to be a granny to get lost in your car. You don’t have to be a grandad to refuse to ask directions.

And if we’re all absolutely honest, we’d have to admit satnav driving aids are about as reliable as a brolly in a force nine, however old we are.

Anyone who ever had to direct a foreign lorry driver out of a car park, back down a one-way street (the right way) and onto the road leading to where he was supposed to be going in the first place – Rotterdam – will know how useful satellite navigation really is.

A friend of mine with a sleek, posh Jag, found hers particularly perplexing. Whenever she turned on the engine, the car assumed it was in Belgium and enthusiastically tried to direct her home to Brampton – even from Carlisle – by offering a scenic route via Brussels.

It took her ages to get the thing sorted out – and a fair few quid too. But that wasn’t the most upsetting part of her sorry saga.

To the best of her knowledge the car had never been to Belgium. Not even as a baby.

She uses maps now.

And remember when David Cameron was running unusually late on his last but one visit to Cumbria? Satnav was blamed. Goodness only knows where it was sending him – but not where he should have been, that’s for sure.

So, it’s now quite pleasing – and a relief to ambulance drivers everywhere – to learn that a new directional device is being developed by experts at Newcastle University to make those who need technology to know where they are and on what day – Theresa May please note – a little safer on the roads.

Sensibly, the proposed new navigator speaks in a language all drivers will understand. No more nagging women telling you to take the third turning on the right. Plans are for a much more patient voice of gentle but firm guidance advising a left turn at the post office, taking another left at the library and a pint at the pub.

Now, that is better. For all drivers, that’s a huge improvement. But why is it already being dubbed the Granny-Nav?

Sure, the scientists are using their £12m research funding to study ways to keep older people independent for longer – driving safely into grand old age being one.

But couldn’t we all benefit from a bit of helpful, no-nonsense, plain speaking.

What a boon for all concerned – so long as post offices and libraries don’t keep closing at the rate they are now and directions are frequently updated without diversions through Belgium.

The clever Geordies have another trick up their lab coat sleeves. They’re devising routes from any start point to absolutely any destination without right turns and dual carriageways to upset nervous motorists.

Marvellous! Going round in circles, always turning left, for the rest of your driving days. What a truly inspirational way to waste – erm, sorry spend – £12m.

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