Trust the satnav!

Can Google Maps and other satnav software be trusted? Some swear by such software. Many swear at the software. Some unflappables allow some leeway.

A few years back, one of my colleagues used his satnav to drive to the local port after a delightful holiday on one of Europe’s many islands. Sure enough: the family arrived at the harbour.

While queuing, the satnav went into panic-mode. While the car was allowed to slowly board the ferry, the satnav went into overdrive. The moment the car disappeared inside the ferry, the satnav went through the roof. Of course, a crowded ferry witnessed the scene.

Mum and the kids made a fast escape to the restaurant, pretending not to belong to husband, car, satnav. My colleague suffered difficult moments; till he could switch off the engine. This killed the hysterical satnav, screaming “Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!

According to its latest info and previous updates, satnav plus car and family had ended up at the bottom of the North-sea. Imitating his satnav’s panic-attack during dinner parties, still draws tears of laughter from my colleague and guests,

Last week, while returning from Utrecht via Rotterdam to Brussels on an international train, I was completely immersed in Donna Leon‘s latest detective. As usual, the mayhem and murder mystery was totally engrossing. The couple opposite me were discussing a friend hospitalized with vertebral problems. Like other passengers, the woman next to me was dozing peacefully.

Suddenly, everybody veered up, transported totally, completely in the here-and-now-and-very-present.

“Continue for another hundred meters! Turn right! This is Broadway! Continue straight ahead, then …” an authoritarian voice boomed at the complete compartment, before the phone’s owner sitting several seats away from us, was able to kill it.

Everybody started sniggering, pulling faces, rolling eyes. The windows told us, on the left and right were ditches, copses and green meadows occupied by black-and-white cows. There were no villages in sight, not even dirt tracks, let alone broad ways.

Satnavs and Google Maps may have problems trying to figure out how ferries cross from islands to Europe’s main, or what exactly lies between Rotterdam and Roosendaal on either side of a train-track. But who would not trust satnavs and Google Maps to be able to find tourist spots like royal palaces and castles?

Last week, it turned out a suspect caught earlier outside Buckingham Palace, had relied on his satnav. It had correctly directed him to Windsor Castle – that is: a pub called “Windsor Castle”.

Obviously, this was not the place the terror-suspect had had in mind. So he headed to Buckingham Palace instead. There he was arrested by police, while “ … in possession of a four-foot sword and praising Allah“. Several policemen involved in overpowering and arresting this suspect, luckily only suffered “minor injuries”.

So next time you feel like swearing at Google Maps or your car’s satnav, rejoice these tools occasionally suffer from panic-attacks and hiccups too.

Guardian: Buckingham Palace suspect

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