Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Adventures With GPS

I drove to Denver, Colorado for NATCA’s convention. My wife flew out with friends. That meant that I was supposed to pick everybody up at the airport -- and their luggage. That meant that I had to take my wife’s minivan. Instead of my pickup truck. Driving through Kansas wearing a cowboy hat in a pickup truck is one thing. In a minivan -- another.

Anyway, my wife’s van has GPS. My truck does not. It was an interesting experience. I drove across the country without a map. That doesn’t seem real smart to me. I didn’t like the routes it picked so I was always telling it to go someplace I wasn’t really going to keep it off the Interstate. (Yes, I know about routing options.) And it has to be the world’s worst data entry interface. Yet, I used it while in motion. Repeatedly.

It sent me to the wrong place a few times. I should have known that “2” 11th Avenue was suspicious. Turned out the real address was (something like) 1234 and 1/2 (I kid you not) 11th Avenue. Yes, the people at the hotel front desk have heard this tale before.

The GPS on my iPhone has its own unique set of problems. I walked 10 blocks with a friend looking for the Breakfast Palace in Denver. The little blue dot (me) lined up perfectly with the little red pin (the Breakfast Palace.) Unfortunately, I was standing in front of a Firestone Service Center. My friend looked it up on his phone. It said the alleged Breakfast Palace was 7 miles away. Yet, the street address his phone gave was the very spot we were standing in.

Another friend went with me to shoot pictures in the morning. We, of course, used the GPS to guide us to our chosen location(s). I proved to myself that I could not drive, watch for traffic, carry on a conversation and follow the GPS directions.

After 2,500 miles of letting this thing mislead and distract me, I was still using it -- and still watching it -- even after I was in the very familiar territory near my home. “Look! I’m only 27 miles from my destination and I’ll be there in 34 minutes!”


It occurs to me that flying an airplane is less forgiving than driving a car down the road. And more difficult. GPS is not going to go away. This I know. We are going to learn a few more lessons the hard way I fear.

Don Brown
April 4, 2012


John Liptak said...

Your GPS issue in Denver is quite common. Most GPS devices and phones are really bad at allowing you to enter the "South" part of the address.

The Breakfast Palace is a 2000 SOUTH Broadway in Denver, the Firestone is a 2000 NORTH Broadway and a lot of devices just default to North unless you fight them.

I've found that Salt Lake is even harder to get addresses input correctly.

Comrade Misfit said...

I drove nearly 3,000 miles last month on a long trip without a map, but with a GPS. Not having a map proved to be a mistake, the GPS made a mistake and I would have known better than to follow it if I had cross-checked with a map.

When I fly, sectionals are my navigation reference. For long flights, I draw the course line, compute checkpoints, the whole none yards. My GPS is to help in that. But it's not the main tool that I use.

People surrender some situational awareness to the boxes. That's not a good thing, imo.