Fun and Games With TomToms and Satcoms

Since rising to popularity, sat-nav (satellite navigation) technology has already brought us much entertainment. Most prominent in the news have been the countless stories of car drivers trusting a little too unthinkingly in the commands issuing from their dashboard. Take the one, for instance, about a woman plunging her £96k Mercedes into the River Sence – perhaps, the clearest example you’ll ever see of someone with more money than sense. Then there are the dozens of drivers who – to the continuing bemusement of wiser locals – have tried to cross a ford in the River Avon because “the voices told me to.” One guy in New York even found himself driving into the path of an oncoming train.

Perhaps our fear that technology will one day rise up and kill us all isn’t so far-fetched after all? Already, it seems to be making the odd sneaky attempt.

But maybe it’s even worse than that. GPS systems aren’t just targeting the individual, these days. Apparently, they’ve begun stepping up their ambitions: in Wales, a whole village finds itself under siege. It isn’t the only one, either. A few villages alongside the route to Bristol Airport have recently found themselves to be situated in the helpless path of a satellite guided onslaught of heavy goods vehicles, their drivers apparently oblivious to the plans of our new GPS overlords. One village has even had to change the name of its main through road in a (probably) vain attempt at putting the sat-nav menace off its scent.

Still, let’s not dwell on the coming technological apocalypse. After all, rich people driving into rivers isn’t the only entertainment the world of GPS has to offer. In Britain, we now have the world’s first “satcom”, 230 Miles of Love. Set on the M6, an episode plays itself out as you drive, individual scenes being triggered by landmarks along the way. One download to your tomtom, and you’ll be laughing all the way to Carlisle. Or Catthorpe, if you’re going in the opposite direction – there are northbound and southbound versions, apparently.

As yet, there have been no reports of satcom listeners driving into ditches, though, so I wouldn’t get your comedic hopes up too high. If by some improbability it proves to be more boring than the M6 itself, though, you could always go to Geovative.com and make your own. Or perhaps just download a guided tour of somewhere rather more interesting than a motorway, and ask your sat-nav to take you there. If you’re lucky, it probably won’t try to kill you in the process.

Finally, news reaches me of fun uses for GPS outside of the car driving community. These will even get you exercising!

What am I on about? Location-based gaming. Using handheld GPS units (mobile phones, say), an increasing number of people are taking to the streets to enact real life games of Pacman, among more original ideas. So, now the weather’s improving, it’s not just your own GPS that’s out to get you, it’s everyone else’s as well. And a bunch of hungry ghosts.

Great. I think I might be staying indoors this autumn.