Why I don’t like Sat-Nav devices

I’ve been brewing this post in my head for a while so I’ll do my best not to turn it into a rant, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like sat-nav devices.

As I’ve previously blogged, I am a bit of a gadget geek, so the actual technology I find fantastic. I do look at the likes of devices from Tom Tom and Garmin and can appreciate their shiny gadget appeal. I can also appreciate that many people will find them very useful, it just doesn’t ring true to me.

My main gripe is that they are a technology which ultimately degrades the sense of forward planning that personally I like to have in certain aspects of my life. I am known by my family and friends as being able to generally find my way around by a combination of luck and judgement. Part of this comes from years spent following Watford to over 70 football grounds around the country which gives me a very good knowledge of the national motorway network, and part of it comes from the fact that I seem to have a reliable internal compass which enables me to at least work out the general direction I need to head in.  With 5 minutes of Google maps before I leave I can be quite accurate in both finding my way to somewhere new, and just as importantly estimating the amount of time it will take.

In this respect I fear that sat-nav could have the same effect on society that mobile phones had on the art of planning a night out. Remember back to the time when people made plans they would stick to, agreeing to meet at a certain place at a certain time? Well if my experience is anything to go by the mobile phone has put paid to those days of common decency as the more tardy members of society just rely on the fact that they can phone up and find out where people are.

Of course, the numerous other benefits of mobile phones outweigh this downside, but I don’t yet feel the same way about sat-nav. Whilst sat-nav features such as speed camera detection and being able to find the nearest petrol station are undoubtedly useful, these are not yet enough to convince me.  From what I’ve seen on the roads however a lot of people disagree, which leads me onto the slightly more irrational part of my dislike…

A number of times over the past few weeks I’ve been perplexed by the actions of the car in front of me as its unpredictable and erratic driving starts to grate. It might suddenly slow down at a junction as if unsure whether to turn or not. This might continue for a few turns until it finally finds the exit it was looking for. More often than not nowadays the car in question has a sat-nav device stuck to the windscreen. Putting aside the laws which state that a car is un-roadworthy if it has so much of a crack in the “A zone” of the windscreen but having a widescreen display stuck onto it is ok, it seems that some people appear to be using a sat-nav device in preference to actually looking at the road ahead. My guess is that the typically British trait of not liking being told what to do is coming to the fore, and that these people simply use the sat-nav as a moving map display, turning off the nice voice that will actually give them adequate warning of when to turn. Either that or they can’t actually figure out/be bothered to program in their destination. The net result being that instead of looking at the road, other road users, and the large clear things we call road signs, they peer at a small screen to determine if Acacia Avenue is the next left or the one after.

So apologies for those reading this who have one (Andy!) and I’m sure you are all responsible sat-nav users who really get benefit from the device. Maybe someday I’ll join your ranks, but not just yet. Now DSLR’s that’s a different matter. Canon 400D or Nikon D80? Choices choices…

8 thoughts on “Why I don’t like Sat-Nav devices

  1. So, did you prefer it when people were trying to hold a road atlas with one hand whilst driving with the other? Or distracted by shouting at the wife for her inability to read a map?

  2. I say Canon – but I’m biased. I’s also say, wait until the spring when Canon will probably announce the 30D replacement, and either get one of them or a cheap 30D.

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  4. On the subject of DSLRs, just go with the Canon (although obviously I’m also biased). I’d love a 400D right now, and have been tempted to trade my 350D in for one… although then I think 30D, then I remember it has no EOS Integrated Cleaning System, then I think what about a 5D, then I think I’d need EF lenses and a flash… oh and a lot more money than I currently have… sigh. I think I’ll be waiting another couple of generations before upgrading. My 350D is just great 🙂

    As for your satnav rant, I can’t actually relate. I have mine fitted to the lower right of the windscreen out of my field of vision. If I need to glance at it, I do, in the same way that I might glance at my mirror. I don’t think it has made my driving any more erratic. There have been a couple of instances where the map does not seem to relate to the road ahead (central Croydon being one area where this happens every time) – usually it is where a main road hits one of those junctions where the road itself curls right but there is a smaller road joining the corner so it seems like the road might “carry on straight ahead” – but those could be just as confusing given a map in book form.

    As it happens I don’t currently use the traffic function. I do find the placemarks useful (petrol, supermarkets, landmarks). I love the MP3 player and various other high-end features, as I don’t have any other means of having those functions in my car (i.e. I don’t own an iPod). I can see what you are saying about the forward planning aspect of things, but I don’t relate to the comments on erratic driving. As Dave says, I think I’d be worse with a paper map!

  5. I think I’ll need to try out both the Canon and Nikon as from what I’ve read, it basically comes down to which one fits in your hands the best, and is most comfortable to use. Canon = small hands, Nikon = large.

    The bit about sat-nav placement and erratic driving was a deliberately inflammatory comment, but I have seen it happen on a number of occasions. Of course this will be a minority of users, and I’m not tarring everybody with the same brush. However, I’d be interested to know, do you have the unit on all the time, even when you know where you are going? Or do you only use it when you are going somewhere unknown and you’ve programmed in the destination?

  6. Yeah, I suspect Canon and Nikon are much of a muchness. I’m impressed with Canon. Take a look at the lens prices too… for example, you can get the cheapest Canon EF lens for sub-£100 (the EF 50mm f/1.8), but others are way expensive.

    No, I pretty much don’t bother with the TomTom if I know where I’m going. I do sometimes take it in the car if I want the extra twiddles like the MP3 player, but I don’t typically bring it with me to Hursley every time I drive down. If I had the traffic add-on (or a phone with a data connection and a TomTom PLUS subscription) then I might use it more often even if I did know where I was going. But I don’t.

  7. If Canon stick to their usual schedule, then the 30D replacement is due out in the spring. If this doesn’t have a 10 Mpixel sensor with dust buster then I’d be very surprised. And most likely it will have a few extra features over the 400D. And the 20D/30D/… is a larger camera than the 300D/350D/400D model. I find the 20D fits very nicely in my hand and the quick control dial on the back is a dream to use.

    As for lenses, and anything else, you mostly get what you pay for, with a few exceptions either way. The 50mm “plastic fantastic” from Canon being one of them. Some people would argue that the 50mm is all you need (“F__k zoom, learn to move”) but it depends what you’re shooting.

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