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Are You Sure We're There?

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On: Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 1:00PM | By: Karen Cook

Are You Sure We're There?

When we set off for places unknown most of us trust our GPS to get us there. Whether you use Garmin, Google Maps, or some other device, you probably ask technology to at least point you in the right direction. But, as with any technology, it’s not always perfect.

Did you know that, according to a Michelin survey, 63 percent of people report that their GPS got them lost? I wasn’t part of that poll but you can add me to the stats. My GPS is wrong about 40% of the time. Sometimes it tells me to turn where there is no road and sometimes it just misses its mark entirely. Once I was looking for a bank and it took me to a medical plaza five miles down the road.

Part of the problem is that the satellite information fed to the device is incomplete. There are some out of the way places that haven’t been mapped thoroughly yet so we can really blame TomTom for that. For instance, in Maine, if you’re trying to get to a tiny place called Roque Bluffs, your GPS will tell you that your destination is straight ahead but if you trust it you will drive into the ocean.

Of course, it also can’t tell you about road closures or detours most of the time which can be frustrating but sometimes the gaps in the system are amusing. For example, pronunciation appears to be a problem with users. Depending on the voice you have, you may hear “Jo Jah” instead of “Georgia”. But if you’re in Georgia, that’s correct. There are also reports of drivers being told to turn on “Memorial Doctor” instead of “Memorial Drive”. I think it’s strange for a driving tool to make this mistake. Florida has lots of street names taken from Spanish explorers, which also seems to confuse the GPS. Such as “Sir Von Tess” instead of “Cervantes”.

One driver says his GPS told him to make a u-turn followed by a u-turn. And they say machines have no sense of humor! Of course, you can change the voice on your GPS to make it more palatable or download a celebrity voice and let them look stupid trying to tell you where to go. We can get frustrated or we can be thankful when it works, laugh when it doesn’t, and keep an old-fashioned GPS in the glove box—a map!


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