Turn where??

This was freshly pressed last month from Catsworld1

Have we become so convinced GPS technology is so infallible that we’d rather follow instructions from an in-car unit than believe what we can see through the windscreen?  What is it about these units that seems to remove the last vestige of common sense from vehicle operators?

An item in today’s on-line Toronto Star tells the tale of a man in Alaska who had just driven his vehicle (a Subaru, not that the make has any bearing on the story) from a ferry.  Then, when his GPS told him to make a hard right turn, he did so – and drove down a boat ramp into the harbour.  Now granted this man had just moved to Alaska from the lower 48, but even so, I’m certain he’s seen boat ramps, or photos, or videos of boat ramps, so it shouldn’t have been an alien construct.  The vehicle apparently contained most of his possessions, plus two dogs and a cat.  He was rescued as were the dogs.  The cat drowned.

Now, if your GPS told you to make a turn and you suddenly found yourself driving down a concrete ramp toward a body of water which had boats floating in it, don’t you think you might have the sense to do two things – first, HIT THE BRAKES!  And second, doubt the accuracy of the GPS instructions.  But, hey! The GPS says turn here, so turn here it is.  I recall reading, quite some time ago, about a man in England who also slavishly followed the instructions from his GPS.  Because of his apparent conviction the system couldn’t be in error, he drove his rather expensive vehicle (can’t recall exactly, but I believe it was a Rover of some description) down a horse trail, which narrowed the farther he went.  Imagine what tree branches would do to the paint on the sides of a Rover – ouch!  Eventually, when he found himself stranded at the edge of a cliff, he had the sense to use his cell phone and call for help.

A few years ago, my son came to visit me from the west coast.  He’d been raised here in this part of southern Ontario and knew the roads well.  He’d had lunch with his brother and was driving to visit me.  Before he left the restaurant, he programmed my address into the GPS app on his cell phone, more to see what it would tell him since he didn’t need the instructions.  Just as well he knew where he was going.  The GPS would have had him make a turn down a road some two miles east of where he actually should turn.  The GPS got ignored.

Unfortunately these tales of people driving into farmers’ fields or boat ramps or down dead end roads based upon instructions from a GPS unit are far too common.  People, two things: the GPS unit is made by humans.  The software (maps, etc) is written by humans.  Humans are fallible.   And second: Do you not know how to interpret what you see through your windscreen despite what the GPS tells you.  Had this man in Alaska used his sense, his car and possessions wouldn’t be waterlogged and his cat would still be alive.  The GPS is not intended as an alternative to intelligent thought and action on the part of the driver.  In fact it is nothing more than an electronic map.  And unfortunately it isn’t as accurate as a paper map.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist.  If you’re driving, remember that you know more than your GPS does.


2 thoughts on “Turn where??

  1. Your post made me laugh out loud. It’s so true! I have a GPS but try to use it only if there’s no other way. I recently moved to a new city (I’m from Ontario also) and find myself relying on that darned GPS more and more.

    I will certainly remember to hug an artist. They enrich our planet every day. You’ve also gained a fan. Consider my following your awesome blog a virtual hug. Cheers and thanks for putting a smile on my face.


    • Thanks for the hug. I drove a taxi before GPS units became as common in vehicles as radios, so had to rely on the accuracy of my map book. I’d buy a new one each year because of all the additions I’d had to make as the area built up. I still prefer an atlas or paper map.


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