Are virtual friends good for your mood when travelling?

Posted by Amanda Furness

My son informed me over the Christmas holiday that he’s definitely planning on having a “sat nav” in his first car.  “Can’t imagine why,” I retorted “people have been getting places successfully without them for years; they just make you lazy and lose your sense of direction.”

“Well you didn’t need a sat nav for that!” he quipped.  It was a point fairly made as, at the time, I was trying to direct him back through a city I don’t know that well, and for a novice driver, unhelpfully giving lane advice and directions far too late.

The fact is, I think if I succumbed to one, they’d either become a far too trusted friend or an enemy, the mere sound of whose voice would be enough to lower my mood.  We have one in our other car which thankfully I rarely drive as, when the directions are on, I find myself constantly waiting for “the voice” to lose her temper when her instructions are ignored, not just once but usually on consecutive occasions.

I used to feel sorry for her and come to her defence when she’d go to the trouble of telling you there were queues ahead and my other half would take about as much notice as he does when I ask him something during the latest sports bulletin.  But then I had to endure a journey the full length of England with her … I feel pity no more, she was a nightmare!

On two occasions we were driving along a very long stretch of motorway, forgetting she was with us, when she suddenly piped up that the road was closed in 40miles and did we want her to find an alternative route?  “Yes please” we said, so she replied that it would add over a hundred miles to our journey!  Needless to say we declined to take her up on it and decided instead to take a chance.  For every mile of those forty, she kept asking if we wanted her to select an alternative route.  She became a bit like a child with the repetitive “Are we there yet?” question. Lo and behold just as we held our breath when the map showed us we were going to fall into a black hole of closed motorway, life continued just as we knew it and all lanes were open as usual!

Just to ensure that we really lost all faith in her ability, we were happily driving along a couple of hours after her latest false alarm, when we ran into a traffic jam which took us 45minutes to get through – where was she when we needed her, sitting smugly in the back sipping tea?  She hadn’t even quietly whispered that her crystal ball was showing an impending traffic situation.

And that is why I think I’m better off without a virtual friend in my car.  So until they can produce a more reliable one who answers back, gets ‘crabbit’ when you don’t take their advice, threatens to stop helping unless you start listening, and behaves just like any other passenger in my car, I’m going to remain sceptical as to the wisdom they provide!