Why the “Take a Map too” Articles About GPS Don’t Help Much

Jeff Bertolucci, writing in a PC World blog pens an article titled: Why Aren’t GPS Navigation Systems More Reliable? In it he recounts the latest story of drivers getting stuck in snow based on following their GPS. The good news? GPS enabled phones allowed researchers to find the lost couple in the wilds of Oregon. His conclusion: “The best advice, of course, is to carry a backup (yes, a printed) map, but that’s not always practical, particularly if you’re on a long road trip with multiple destinations.” He goes on to note that if you want to buy a satnav get one that has frequent data updates and to use common sense. I can’t really argue with any of that but it begs one question - that of common sense about GPS devices and their data.

The common sense (based on what I observe) is that somehow all the data on the Web and on any nav devices are up to date! Thus it’s common sense to follow and trust those devices. GPS providers don’t go out of their way to detail exactly how up to date their data are for specific areas, but they do offer enough warnings to cover themselves legally. Interestingly,  Garmin, Magellan, and TomTom were contacted fro Bertolucci’s stories and didn’t get back to him before press time.

We need to change common sense (a tough thing, I know) - at least until all data are in fact up to date. One idea: we need to start a “if you think it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” in regard to satnav. That slogan did quite a lot of good protecting consumers against fraud.

- PC World

Published Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Written by Adena Schutzberg