The technological arms race intensifies on our roads

Driving home from a caricature gig recently, the matrix signs on the motorway informed me that the road would be shut up ahead. As it was still early in the evening I knew it couldn’t be scheduled road works that was causing the road closure, as these generally happen at night, so it had to be an accident of some kind. This meant that it was unlikely that any diversion signs were in place to guide the hapless motorist. As I had SatNav capability, I wasn’t too worried, as I could calculate an alternative route quite easily when I was forced to leave the motorway.

As the traffic approached a junction, the drivers could see that the road up ahead had become a car park and many of them decided to turn off the motorway at the junction, rather than get caught in the queue. I did the same.

When it was safe to do so, I tapped into the SatNav and asked it to find an alternative route. This it did, although it turned out that it wasn’t really necessary to have the SatNav as all the other cars that had turned off the motorway were taking exactly the same route.

I realised, too late, that nearly everyone has SatNav these days and all the devices were going to find the same alternative route to rejoin the motorway at another junction after so many miles of a detour. It was as if the highways agency had actually put diversion signs in place and everyone was slavishly following them.

As we crawled down an A road that was heading into a large town and which was lined with shops I asked my SatNav to find yet another alternative route. Immediately it told me to turn left into a side street then turn right into another side street. This turned out to be a parallel road to the main A road that everyone was queuing in, but was deserted as it was a suburban street and wasn’t even a B road.

I quickly made my way into the town centre down this road that proved quite narrow in places due to the parked cars, but as it was free of moving traffic, I had no problem at all in getting past. Eventually I navigated through the town centre via a different A road, thereby missing all the motorway traffic jamming the obvious A road, and saving myself maybe thirty minutes on my journey time.

So the irony is this; many years ago, when I was one of the few people to have SatNav capability, I could easily escape a motorway queue and rejoin the motorway further along where there was no queue. Now that everyone has SatNav capability, this is no longer possible as everyone escapes the motorway queue, and merely forms another queue on a smaller A road. But I can still easily escape the traffic queue by deploying the technology yet again to second guess where everyone else will be going and asking it to find an alternative route to that route.

How long, I wonder, before others figure this out and create another problem for me to overcome? Will route programers add another option to the menu—’alternative route using the least likely alternative route used by other SatNav owners’?

Leave a Reply