Friday, December 07, 2007

Are we lost yet?

JON CARROLL gets it wrong, I think, when he writes (here) about the use of GPS devices on the road. I suppose he's funny; but he's wrong. He cites an experience in Nevada with a friend who uses a GPS to find a ghost town: they turn off into the desert:
It turned out that, in a sense, the GPS device was correct. There was a ghost town straight ahead, and one could make out faint tracks of road that once had been. Probably the GPS company had programmed an old map into the device.
Later, Carroll cites the widely distributed news item about the English town of Wedmore, which finds itself in a storm of truck traffic. I suppose the town's on a short-cut, relatively unknown until the advent of GPS.

Carroll complains that the makers of these devices haven't built in "warnings" and "safeguards" so that Wedmores won't be overcome by inappropriate traffic, and drivers won't find themselves on desert roads. He complains that old maps are likely programmed into the devices.

I bought a Tomtom GPS a couple of weeks ago, and put it to use on a four-day visit to Los Angeles. I love it. It finds post offices, gas stations, libraries; it navigates you through unfamiliar city streets; it lets you know how far down the highway your next turn-off is going to be. It even calculates estimated times of arrival.

If I were planning a trip to a ghost town in the middle of the desert, I'd expect it to find a ghost road. If I were driving a truck and trailer, I'd be leery of secondary roads. It's a question of proper use, not the design of "safeguards."

1 comment:

John Whiting said...

As I grow older, I value GPS for the same reason that I value the internet: it saves large segments of the uncertain amount of time I have left. Traveling around France, for instance, we choose our next evening destination, a restaurant a leisurely drive away, and tell our little guide to take us by the shortest route. This usually consists of small roads that we wouldn't dare to follow on a map, and our electronic Cicerone keeps us accurately informed as to when we should expect to arrive. Many a marriage, I am told, has been saved by not saddling either partner with the blame for navigational error.