GPS navigation systems are a godsend on road trips and a lot of the time you’ll waste asking, re-routing and being useless with the printed map and the compass can be put to good use by seeing more places and getting to your destination on time. But frankly, for a country like India, they all need a bit of Indianization. They’re all designed primarily with Europe or America in mind and that doesn’t help in a country like ours. No, I’m not talking about wrapping it in a sari and making it speak Hindi like one of those British-Punjabi rappers but customizing the software to be more aware of the nuances of the Indian road network.
Sygic/MapmyIndia’s otherwise brilliant system once instructed us to drive our Kizashi straight through an old man’s villa in Udaipur and because we didn’t follow that instruction, the woman stuck inside the box got pissed and tried to kill us by telling us to take a right…off a straight flyover. On other drives, it once started talking in French out of nowhere and from what I could gather in my limited French vocab, it insisted that the lake ahead was in fact a road. Or that's what I thought it was saying - maybe it was just asking me for some old wine and a Carla Bruni CD - who knows? Still, narrow streets that can barely fit two motorcycles shouldn’t be marked as normal roads and shouldn’t be taken into account for route planning. Such is the logic that usually it will route you through the crappiest parts of the city, through the most traffic, through the worst possible congested areas to come to a point where you see the free bypass coming in at a tangent towards you, something you could’ve taken and avoided a whole lot of crap. ‘Goddam!’ is the word that usually follows. Only if you could strangle circuit boards and LCD screens. Moving on, dual-carriageways should be marked, frequent bottlenecks should be indicated as warnings (like tolls or one-way bridges), detours should be quickly calculated and suggested, road works should be ideally marked and better logic needs to be programmed to get you there in the shortest time, in the most stress-free manner possible. Traffic monitoring will need a lot of infrastructure but the mapping car can very well report that the particular road they’re on is so bad you can hear the blood sloshing around in your head.
Of course, MMI/Sygic’s system is by-far the best out there and it still could do with improvements but its way better than almost all the other turn-by-turn navigation guidance systems I’ve used in India. Most of them are downright unusable – especially integrated ones – and you’re better off without them.
It’s easy to get hold of a European or an American mapping system and just feed it mapping data but without customization it for a nation like ours, it wouldn’t be the most useful tool. If Pizza Hut can come up with a Tandoori Paneer pizza and McDonalds can come up with Maharaja Mac, it’s not too much to expect now, is it?
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