When Good Sat-Navs Go Bad

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
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when good sat navs go bad

There's a commercial for an insurance company where a driver wrecks his car when his GPS tells him "turn right…" and he does so before it can add "…in fifty feet." As Computerworld reports, these kind of incidents actually happen in real life. There've been several reports of trains hitting cars after the Darwin Award candidate behind the wheel followed the sat-nav's directions to turn onto the railroad tracks (the drivers managed to escape unharmed). Others have driven into ponds and lakes, sandpiles at construction sites or gone the wrong way down one-way streets because they trusted their GPS and ignored road signs. It's gotten so bad in England that they've started posting "ignore your sat-nav" signs in the areas where the problems occur the most. Of course, if the idiots don't believe a sign that says "one way" or "road closed," why would they pay attention to one telling them to ignore their electronic back-seat driver? [Thanks to KixStart for the link]

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  • Miked Miked on Feb 19, 2008

    @turbosaab - I call that a feature of SatNav. If your Nav systems uses Navteq maps or you happen to follow Mapquest to my house the directions lead you on a road that's passable by 4x4 in the summer at best. In the winter it's unmaintained. When I bought the house, it took me weeks to figure out why the home owner's insurance inspector couldn't find the place. He was using Mapquest instead of believing my directions (of course the correct way to my house isn't much better, but at least it's maintained in the winter).

  • Windswords Windswords on Feb 19, 2008

    "It's gotten so bad in England that they've started posting "ignore your sat-nav" signs in the areas where the problems occur the most." Here is the link to that story the London Mail: http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=436983&in_page_id=1770 My own story: This involves a good old fashioned 2 dimensional map. I was looking at my road map of NJ and since my wife and I had some time to kill I wanted to go some place I had never been to before. So I looked at the map and picked a town named Quaker Bridge in the middle of Wharton State Forrest - the largest state forest in NJ. The map showed the road and the town with the symbols to denote the smallest of rural roads and towns. So I was expecting a two lane road with no shoulder and a podunk town with half dozen houses or less and a gas station/country store. We got onto the road where the map said to go and the road imediately became dirt. As we drove deeper into the forest the hard packed dirt gave way to soft sand. There was nothing around but trees with "No Hunting" signs nailed to them. Several times we were passed (the road was barely wide enough for two vehicles) by 4x4 SUV's and pickups. As the sand got deeper I was beginning to worry that our FWD 1987 Toyota Corolla LE 4 door might get stuck, but I kept going. My wife was no longer appreciating my wonderlust anymore (maybe her being pregnate with our first child had something to do with it). We finally came to a small metal grate bridge just wide enough for one car that spanned a picturesque stream in the middle of the this huge forest. I stopped the car and got out to admire the view. There was no sound of civilization anywhere not even aircraft, just the birds and the running water to listen too. I imagined this is what the New World was like when the first European setlers arrived here. Then it hit me. I had reached the destination on my map. THIS little metal grate overpass was "Quaker Bridge", NJ. We continued on our way and eventually exited the forest and back to civilization.

  • Dean Dean on Feb 19, 2008

    I chuckle thinking about the Knight Rider pilot episode where KITT auto-pilots based on GPS and navigational maps downloaded real-time. "He" obviously has access to better maps than the rest of us.

  • Yankinwaoz Yankinwaoz on Feb 19, 2008

    Sometimes I find that uses Google Maps satellite mode does wonders for explaining confusing intersections or areas (before I get there). Related story: I was in Sears last month to buy something small. Couldn't find a cashier so I ended up in the electronics department. In front of me in line was a teenage Hispanic male with his mother. His mother didn't speak a word of English... but I could sense that she was the one that was going to be paying for whatever it was he was trying to buy. He was trying to buy the display unit for his car's GPS system. Someone had broken in to his car and stole it, leaving the other half of the system in the car. He didn't want to buy a complete new system, just the part the was stolen. Sears couldn't help him. He looked so dejected. I couldn't help but think that if I were his dad, I'd tell him to buy a damn map. What does an 18 year old kid need with a GPS system that mom and dad are going to pay for. She didn't look rich. She looked like she worked hard as a maid or something. Somehow this kid convinced his parents that he NEEDED a GPS. This is in Santa Barbara... only 5 miles wide. There is only one freeway. If you drive far enough, you hit either ocean or mountain. It is damn hard to to get lost there. Sad...