City sat-nav chaos warning
MOTORING organisations today warned of a "real danger drivers could become hopelessly lost" once Sheffield's new inner relief road opens - because it will not show on sat nav systems for up to two years.
Cars and lorries following directions from the devices will instead be sent along the old roads around the north of the city centre.
But many current routes are being altered or closed off altogether once the new road is fully opened on October 27.
And misinformed motorists could even accidentally fall foul of the law by being sent through a bus gate which is to be introduced on Bridge Street, between Castlegate and West Bar - banning all vehicles except buses, cycles and taxis.
Sheffield Council said it has done "all it possibly can" to inform the mapping companies which provide data for sat navs.
But one of the two main firms supplying devices such as Tom Toms - Tele Atlas - said it won't be updating offering updates showing the changes until January at the earliest.
It could then be a further six months before the new maps are available for all sat navs Tele Atlas supplies.
Allan Rasmussen, of Tele Atlas, said: "We have looked into the upcoming changes in Sheffield and expect these to be included into Tele Atlas Multinet map versions which will be released in January and April 2008 to the Tele Atlas business partner community.
"Please be aware that it can take three to six months from the release of the Tele Atlas Multinet product before it's becomes available for a Tele Atlas partner product."
Motorists then have to buy and install the updates, which could take months longer.
The second main mapping company, Nav Teq, was unavailable for comment.
Tim Shallcross, of the Institute of Advance Motorists, said: "There is a real danger drivers could become hopelessly lost.
"People are becoming too reliant on technology. The sat nav companies should be looking at installing details of new roads on systems before they open, stating they will open at a certain date, to avoid problems like this."
Mr Shallcross said the dangers of people getting lost after being misdirected by sat navs have been illustrated elsewhere in the UK by cases including a lorry driver who was directed down a tiny lane and ended up colliding with parked cars.
And residents of Miller's Dale, in the Peak District, complained about lorries causing traffic chaos after being mistakenly diverted down a narrow road through the village.
Coun Sylvia Dunkley, Liberal Democrat shadow cabinet member for transport on Sheffield Council, said: "Clearly more and more people are using their sat-nav systems to get around unfamiliar road systems, therefore this news gives us cause for concern.
"We believe that council officers should make a special case to the relevant sat-nav companies in order to bring updates forward to take full account of this major scheme."
Sheffield Council is notifying bodies such as the AA, RAC, and haulage and coach organisations as soon as the new route officially opens.
But the authority believes it could take up to two years before most sat-nav systems have been updated.
Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for transport, said: "There is potential for people to be confused to start with but all the signage will indicate the no-through-routes and drivers should not be totally reliant on their sat navs.
"We urge people to follow diversion signs rather than their satellite navigation facilities."
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