Turing's SatNav & Milton Keynes Roadplan?

Post this page to popular social media

Pete Chilvers, a volunteer at TNMOC, writes: In my last piece I suggested that my SatNav is more intelligent than a chicken and that it found better routes than my own usual ones to TNMoC at Bletchley Park. But I now have an embarrassing confession to make - but more of that later!

I decided to change the display to ordinary 2D map view from the useful 3D display I used for the first few months: I wanted to try having a better and continual sense of direction similar to and better than the former paper map. And thereby came the revelation!

Milton Keynes is famous for its concrete cows and its roundabouts. However, the latter may be regarded as a symptom of the new garden city being based on a gridiron road plan. Well, that's the first impression! But closer inspection leaves one wondering at the eccentricities.

First the roads are numbered H1 - H10 and V1 - V12. And what do the letters stand for? Well, H is for horizontal & V for vertical! Steep are them there hills in MK! Evidently the planners believed the map pinned to a wall matches the roads in real life climbing up to the sky. No airport required then?

Worse than that, the V-roads are based on the direction of Watling Street (V4) which in MK takes the direction of NW-SE ie 45 degrees. So it could just as easily have been the H4 and H-roads for navigation parallel to Watling Street - just that its link London-N.Wales encourages the 'vertical' choice.

So the change of display has revealed just how squiffy my perception of the real directions of the MK road system has been. I feel like I've had to rotate the inside of my head!

Mind you, it explains why I've always found the direction of the sun strange as I drive the A5D (the dual carriageway spine-road that took over from the old A5 of Watling Street). But again this road twists and turns beyond my imagining: it leaves its northern roundabout pointing East, and just beyond my exit to Bletchley Park it is even pointing North of East when travelling 'south'!

And then count the V-road numbers across the south of MK near Bletchley: V1, V2, V3, V4, V6, V7, V8, V10, V11! So whither V5 & V9? Well it turns out that the V-roads are not all parallel to V4 and there is not enough room for V5 to travel the full length of MK. And then V9 is replaced by the Grand Union Canal's corridor. And to be silly in the north, V8 bends through 90 degrees to meet V7 at right angles, and the inevitable roundabout! Still following me? For good measure H5 & H6 meet at a roundabout in the East as do H8 & H9! Talk about non-Euclidean geometry where parallel lines can meet or just evaporate into thin air! Einstein - do you have a Special Theory of Milton Keynes?

So I have to be impressed that the SatNav happily copes with all this complexity.

And my embarrassing confession? Well, as it copes far better than me, it seems it is I that doesn't pass the Turing Test for SatNavs! But then, I reckon I have a good excuse.

Pete Chilvers

Support us

The Museum has not received government or Lottery funding, so your help is needed.

Become a member »
Make a donation »
Become a volunteer »
Sponsor us »

Latest Tweets Follow