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Drivers going back to paper maps

There has been much talk lately of driverless cars but one area of driving where we have already handed control over to the computers is that of navigation. Only a few years ago, every car would have at least one well-thumbed atlas on board but they were surely all destined for the recycling pile now that we have our new satellite navigation systems.

There has been much talk lately of driverless cars but one area of driving where we have already handed control over to the computers is that of navigation. Only a few years ago, every car would have at least one well-thumbed atlas on board but they were surely all destined for the recycling pile now that we have our new satellite navigation systems. Apparently not. Sales of good old fashioned paper-based atlases are on the up and one publisher, Nicolson, has reported sales increases of 10% in the past year. The AA has also confirmed growing demand for its road atlases.

It seems that drivers are being put off sat-nav systems by well-publicised cases of misdirection and even accidents being caused by the systems. In one recent, tragic case a cyclist was killed in the northeast of England after a driver failed to stop at a junction because his satellite navigation system did not register it. A councillor in Cornwall, meanwhile, has campaigned to have the dangers of relying on satellite navigation incorporated into the Highway Code. Indeed, the Department for Transport (DfT) has already conducted talks with the satellite navigation technology firms in an effort to address some of the reported issues with the systems.

DfT minister, Norman Baker, has welcomed the news that drivers are apparently returning to paper atlases: "I am delighted. I don't use a sat nav in my car, I use a road atlas, they are far more reliable. I am sure people find map reading a challenge, but then I am sure people find sat-navs a challenge."

Motoring organisations also greeted the news positively. AA president, Edmund King, commented: "Although drivers have come to depend on their sat-navs, some almost slavishly, the regular drip-drip of stories where drivers have allowed their sat-navs to get them into trouble has caused many to think again. The increase in atlas sales suggests that many drivers are taking a belt-and-braces approach to route-finding. Having an atlas on board helps them to double-check a road to make sure it's suitable."

RAC foundation director, Professor Stephen Glaister, suggested that drivers may find the systems too difficult to use, commenting: "Is it that drivers don't trust the sat navs or do not trust their ability to use them? Our ever-busier roads make it harder and harder to pull over and work out where we are, but maybe we are rebelling against being caught in the tidal wave of technology."

A narrow majority (51%) of drivers now use satellite navigation systems, while almost half of those who don't, use maps that are more than three years old.

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