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UK.gov holds summit to stop satnav-driven smash-ups

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The UK's Department of Transport is holding a summit today to try to figure out how to get satnav maps bang up-to-date so drivers don't blithely follow them into disaster.

The problem is particularly bad in rural areas, where no end of massive lorries seem to ignore the narrowing of the road they're on in deference to the satnav, ending up wedged between two buildings or jack-knifed, to give two recent British examples.

Last month, Confused.com said that satnavs had caused more than £203m worth of damage to drivers on UK roads in the last year, with 83 per cent of 2,000 survey respondents admitting to the site that they'd been misled by their soothingly voiced machines.

Local councils are going to receive more powers to categorise their roads so that heavy traffic ends up on the right street as well as powers to put up certain signs – such as those warning lorry drivers of unsuitable roads – without needing Whitehall approval from next month. However, the main reasons the satnavs cause problems is because it can take months for map updates from local councils to make their way onto the gadgets.

Whitehall hopes today's confab will help thrash out ways to get the maps onto the navigation machines more quickly and plug satnavs into local authority info on parking availability and roadworks.

"The summit will see a plan of action agreed to ensure motorists are given the best possible directions and help prevent huge lorries from being sent down narrow country lanes and through small villages," Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said in a canned statement.

"I am pleased that highway authorities, mapping companies and satnav manufacturers have agreed to work more closely to provide drivers with accurate, up-to-date information on traffic restrictions such as narrow roads or low bridges."

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transportation (ADEPT), which represents councils and Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS UK), which counts satnav-makers in its members, are attending the summit along with government representatives. ®

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