More useful than a backseat driver…

Noticing a story on Future cars, Hybrid Cars got me thinking about what information we really would like when motoring.  This provided a link to where you can get download a code to paste local gas prices (that’s petrol or diesel this side of the ocean) into your website.

Well, I’d quite like to be directed to the best local fuel prices when I’m driving my car – so maybe those lovely people at  could add this to the service.   It could maybe also help me find a good parking space (I am a whizz at parking, so please, no sexist “woman driver needs a gigantic space to drive into” thoughts).

I am resistant to government plans for vehicle tracking and road pricing – btw great to see the e-petition against this is nearly at 1 million votes, which it will undoubtedly reach before the 20 February deadline.  But personally, I can see lots of advantages for intelligent software in my car.

So far I have been impressed with Smartnav (which was fitted for me to review) – it saved 15 minutes on a journey home from London recently, and it amuses me for even short distances.  It has been spot on with “time to arrival” which is really important to me and I have no complaints about the routes it has chosen.

And, I’ve even given it a name – Tulip – becayse back when I used to organise car launches, we used to draw to guide the media around our test routes.  Today, of course, this can be programmed into Smartnav systems. 

I used to love planning the routes myself, which involved studying real maps and selecting appropriate types of roads for the particular car being launched.  Then we’d go out and evaluate them ourselves, before plotting the route.  I used basic drawing packages to produce my little “turn left at the end of the road” diagrams and was most proud when they were printed up and in the test cars.

Actually, I wonder if reading maps will become another lost art (like remembering phone numbers) when we are all using satellite navigation systems.  I hope not as I believe there is an awful lot of useful brain power in planning a journey yourself.  I also have a brilliant sense of direction (I was a homing pigeon in a previous life) and much prefer to use my abilities than rely on Tulip.  But she’s a fun addition to my travels and can save me wasted time too.


  1. With all the readily available internet information, I still like to look at it on a paper map. The internet is great for planning. I have very warm memories of OS Maps for my many trips up cold, wet and foggy Scottish mountains.

  2. A colleague, who was a big fan of maps said we were mapophiles – I particularly love following maps as a passenger in a rally co-driver sort of way – I’ve even been known to give my dad (who is normally the only person to “chauffeur” me) countdown instructions of bends ahead etc.

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