Sat navs to order drivers to avoid shortcuts

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Millions of “rat run” motorists are to be steered out of quiet back roads as part of an anti-nuisance drive by sat nav companies. Manufacturers like TomTom are to alter the algorithms used in their devices to channel more motorists onto main roads and away from shortcuts.

Industry chiefs are currently locked in talks with the European Commission but hope to include Britain in the new system planned for 2025.

Backed by politicians and motoring groups, they believe the scheme will keep quiet residential areas free of traffic and engine fumes.

Ralf-Peter Schaefer, vice president of TomTom said the switch would “protect people in neighbourhoods from noise and emissions”.

AA president Edmund King said residents were entitled to peace and insisted the move did not pander to the suburban “Nimby” – whose motto is “not in my back yard”.

He said: “One person’s sat-nav-inspired rat run is another person’s front garden.

“So it makes sense to introduce a hierarchy of roads to ensure that through traffic is not pushed into the most sensitive areas.

“We don’t see this as Nimby regulation as many of these small roads are not suitable for diverted traffic in safety, environmental or even aesthetic terms.”

Stephen Edwards, chief executive of pressure group Living Streets, welcomed the idea of new sat nav algorithms.

“People have become so used to traffic being funnelled down their streets by sat navs, and felt powerless to do anything about it.”

Sat navs were introduced nearly 30 years ago and have become increasingly sophisticated and standard features in cars and mobile ‘phones.

The DVLA has included them in the practical driving test since 2017 and candidates have to be able to follow directions on a TomTom device.

Department for Transport figures show traffic levels on quieter residential streets in London increased by 72.2 per cent in the decade to 2019 – with experts linking the rise to sat navs.

Traffic on minor roads in north-west England rose by 47.1 percent and 40.5 percent in Yorkshire and Humber, during the same period.

David Metz, a former chief scientist at the transport department, said sat navs encourage drivers to cover greater distances and use more fuel.

The honorary professor at the Centre for Transport Studies, University College London, added that they push more cars onto motorways as part of their shortcut algorithm.

“The impact is to increase local use of motorway capacity, to the disadvantage of longer-distance users.”

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