Navigation? Sat’s Not Always the Way to Do It!

There’s a new smartphone app launched in the UK claiming to alert motorists of accident hotspots ahead in real-time.

On the surface, this seems a must-have app especially for drivers navigating the hectic city streets where collisions vie with road works for the title of causing the most congestion and road-user frustration. Safescape Intelligent Systems says that it uses critical data from more than 1.3 million accidents over the past decade, interpreted using AI machine-learning algorithms, to issue alerts to drivers with the app.

“There are around 3,500 ‘safety’ cameras on the roads today but we know most of the 238,000 accidents occurring annually don’t even happen at these locations,” said Stuart Petersen, vice-president of distribution and partnerships at Safescape. “You only have to look at the meteoric rise in dashcams to realize people want to feel safe in their cars. Safescape arms drivers with the best knowledge to adjust their speed accordingly, intensify their focus and hopefully stay out of harm’s way.”

Promises, promises…

This all sounds promising until you hear from the company that its real-time data is based on alerts from the local police authorities. Now, this reminds me of one particularly snowy winter family trip we made from London to Belgium having pre-booked a crossing on P&O Ferries. The day before the journey, we read that the Eurotunnel trains were cancelled suffering ‘the wrong kind of snow’ and all traffic would be diverted to take the ferry crossing from Dover.

Naturally, we set off a bit earlier than normal the next day and set the sat-nav on the Lexus RX450h to avoid all motorways in the knowledge these would be the favored routes for most divertees. The journey on side roads was fast and incident free thanks to the car’s excellent all-wheel drive system coping well with the slippery conditions.

However, just five miles from the port the sat-nav dumped us back on the M20 and straight into a traffic jam that was obviously Operation Stack, a police-instigated traffic flow system to prevent log-jams in the port. The police must have sent out digital alerts to everyone’s sat-navs to direct them into the Stack as a way of managing traffic. Thankfully, being somewhat skeptical over all single-source information, I immediately over-rode the navigation system by pushing the Detour button and setting it for five miles. The system took the manual instruction and directed the car off the next junction, along tiny twisting snow covered country lanes and dropped us no more than 200 yards from the ferry.

Four-hour delays

In the end we had turned up to catch an earlier than planned ferry while most of our fellow passengers regaled us over their four-plus hours stuck in the police traffic flow system on the M20.

So, while in most situations I’m sure the new app will ease your journey avoiding many of the potential hold-ups, it’s worth bearing in mind that the police authorities have other things on their agendas ahead of getting you to that business meeting on time!

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *