Satellite navigation goes wrongMany motorists think sat-navs are the best thing ever, something which is understandable when they allow us to get straight in our car and go wherever we want, with only a postcode to send us on our way. They allow our more navigationally challenged friends and relatives to visit us without becoming hopelessly lost and being eaten by wolves en route, and they save us from all of those arguments we used to have between the person who was driving the car and the person with the map.

Truly they are one of the wonders of modern technology.

As with most modern technology, there has been no lack of hiccups along the way.

Compensating for time travel – One of the first problems that had to be compensated for when developing the GPS system was the small detail of time passing faster for the satellites that form the GPS system than it does for us back here on Earth, this is the result of two separate relativistic effects, time travelling faster for fast moving objects, and slower for those in a greater gravitational field. This is a tiny effect, only about 45 microseconds per day, but satellite navigation relies on sufficiently accurate time keeping that this needs to be compensated for, for the system to remain accurate.

Going off the reservation - Of course even from the very start there have been no shortage of stories of individuals led astray by their sat-navs picking an unusual route, taking them the wrong way down a one way street or suggesting that they travel from Manchester to Liverpool via Belgium or something equally ridiculous. People have even lost their lives as a sat-nav has directed them onto railway line, into oncoming traffic or through flood swollen fords. In fact a survey performed by the UK insurance company Direct Line has suggested that the devices may have caused up to 300,000 accidents in the UK alone.

Military blunders - Of course GPS systems can cause problems outside simple satellite navigation, the recent capture of a new top secret US drone by Iran was reported by some Intelligence services to have been achieved by spoofing the navigation signals that it was receiving and tricking it into performing an emergency landing on an Iranian runway.

These problems may become even more serious in the future as sat-nav systems become more and more involved in the motoring experience, newer systems are designed to give direct feedback on driving, and of course the new self driving car initiatives being spearheaded by Google will put similar systems in full control of your car.

Until then, don’t forget that having a sat-nav doesn’t mean that it is necessarily wise to ignore where exactly it is taking you to, keep a check on the road signs along your way!

 Jane Paulie is a freelance writer specialising in UK car credit hints and tips, such as where to find the best car loan for you.