Monday, March 30, 2015


Garbage in garbage out! Are our navigational devices making us dumber? 

Anyone who has relied on a GPS to navigate knows that they are not 100% accurate, 100% of the time. Road construction, re-development, road closures are not always update in real time. Some jurisdictions charge more for their maps than others. making regular updates prohibitive.In Canada for example,  Federal as well as Provincial and even Local governments closely control their maps and charge large royalties for their use. 

Excellent metropolitan area and rural road maps will still produce areas areas where the GPS places you "off the road" by more than the nominal 15 meters specified by the GPS specification.   The specification is only a 95% confidence level specification.  This means that up to 5% of the time,  the error can be greater than 15 meters.  In addition,  there are undoubtedly many  areas on even these high accuracy maps where map errors will show a road out of its actual position by even a few hundred meters.

It makes a bit of sense to review your trip a little in advance to know the main landmarks and streets to make driving in a new location less stressful. As well, looking at the GPS (besides listening) can be distracting. You can easily miss a sign or end up rear-ending someone. 

Our last trip to Orlando was like that. I got into the routine of traveling routes by myself to learn the roads before driving with the family on-board. The GPS would be screaming take u-turn hear or would not indicate that a merge was about to occur and I might find myself on a shoulder.  The lesson was - it makes driving easier but do not let the GPS do all the thinking - use common sense.

A fatal accident in Indiana this past Saturday provides a stark reminder of how dangerous it can be to follow the guidance of a GPS too closely and not pay attention to your surroundings. 

 Iftikhar Hussain, 64, managed to skirt numerous barricades and warning signs before driving off a ramp to a bridge that no longer exists. He escaped with injuries but his wife died when the car became engulfed in flames and exploded.

Hussain and his wife were visiting friends and were not familiar with the area.

The trouble is that some of our beloved electronic devices could be a detriment to spatial cognition despite the help getting from point to point. 

Take this incident as awarning, folks should re-engage with their environment.

No comments: