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'Good old fashioned' road atlas beats high-tech satellite navigation


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'Good old fashioned' road atlas beats high-tech satellite navigation


By RAY MASSEY Last updated at 00:28am on 10th November 2006

road091106_228x151.jpg Click on enlarge to see how the high tech systems fared against the AA map





A traditional road atlas beats expensive hi-tech satellite navigation when it comes to motorists finding their way from A to B, new research reveals today.

The 'good old-fashioned' £8 AA map-book not only beat a sophisticated £220 sat-nav system - costing nearly 28 times more and getting the driver lost down "obscure" country detours - it also knocked the socks off a computer-based route-finder costing £45.


The low-tech road atlas also trounced the Government's own free online 'Transport Direct' website, which was by far the worst, giving motorists incorrect directions, sending them miles out of their way and taking users twice as long to get to their destination.

The findings follow a series of high-profile cases in which motorists - following their in-car sat-nav systems - have found themselves diverted along obscure and unsuitable roads, stuck in fords, rivers, or impassibly narrow lanes.

The experiment was organised by Computing Which? magazine.

It put the £8 AA Great Britain Road Atlas 2007 in competition with the £220 Garmin Nuvi satellite navigation system; the computer-based Microsoft AutoRoute costing £45 and and the Government's official travel website Transport Direct. The sat-nav system was the Which? 'best buy'.

Four cars set off simultaneously at 10.50am to navigate their way from Which?'s Hertford offices to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in Cambridgeshire, Stevenage Borough Football club and then back to the Hertford office - a distance of about 70 miles.

They kept to speed limits and obeyed all signs and the Highway Code.

The map-reading team got there in 1 hour 35 minutes; the sat-nav driver in 1 hour 43 minutes; the computer commuters in 1 hour 49 minutes.

Those following the directions given on the Government's much heralded Transport Direct took a pedestrian 2 hours and 19 minutes - twice as long as those navigating by atlas. It also took them an astonishing 90 miles to cover - 20 miles more than average.

Although the two-man map-reading team - one driving, one navigating - fared best, Which? noted: "You need a level headed passenger with map-reading skills."

However, other methods fared less well.

For example, the Garmin Nuvi sat-nav's "shortest option" sent drivers on an obscure country lane detour. It took them off the wrong exit at a roundabout, directed the car up a closed road and ordered the driver to turn into a farmyard.

Microsoft AutoRoute's instructions were "not always accurate" and also sent the driver the wrong way. The 'step by step' instructions ran out and left them stranded by fields - forcing them to resort to a map.

And the Government's Transport Direct gave motorists the wrong turn onto a dual carriageway, sent them the wrong way down an A-road. And the team became so confused they drove the wrong way around a roundabout.

Computing Which? editor Abigail Waraker said: "The good old-fashioned road atlas performed best in our test. It was efficient and reliable.

"With all the hi-tech software available to direct drivers from A to B, it's remarkable that the traditional road atlas came out top."

Psychologists say men are better at map-reading because they have better spatial awareness than women, and are therefore better able to judge in three dimensions the distance between two objects - a skill improved by playing sports such as football, rugby and cricket.

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