20 July 2009

GPS, Maps and a Sand Storm

I have never been a fan of GPS's - yes, they have their place but to me they take away the fun of "getting lost" and the feeling of accomplishment of arriving at your destination based on nothing more than 10 year old memories or having correctly read the map.

The makers of today's car units must've had a sense of humour when they gave the unit a female voice - because a GPS in the car doesn't stop the "back seat driving" by the other woman.
I saw the funny side of this when a male friend who has a GPS unit gave me a lift. Because I knew where I was going I was giving him directions. The GPS was also giving directions, which were different to those I was giving! He decided on the balance of things that since I was actually sitting there and the GPS was just a voice it was probably better to follow my directions :)

The other limitation is that GPS's don't read your mind. You need to be pretty specific about where you want to go - not just a shop on a road that you'll remember when you see it. Over the weekend we went looking for the Dragon Market outside Dubai. A couple of phone calls to friends came up with the same general directions and the my friends were confident that they would know the place when they saw it. We headed off in the general direction, but weren't completely sure as to exactly which road would get us there. Now traveling in the outskirts of Dubai has 2 main problems - the landscape is generally featureless and because things are being built at such a rate it never looks the same twice. (You will notice by looking closely at the picture above that the GPS has us "driving off road" when there is clearly (?) a road ahead.) It was at this point that I really would've liked to see a map where we could see a "big picture" and understand exactly which road we needed to be on. Then a sand storm blew up and our visibility was significantly reduced so in addition to not knowing how to get where we wanted to be, we didn't know where we were! It was at this point that Gertie (as my friends have named their GPS) came into her own. We input our destination as a place close to where we wanted to go (as Gertie didn't list the destination) and travelled through 270' coming on and off highways (just "turning around" in Dubai is next to impossible) and finally we were on our way (only to recognise the way to the Dragon Market once we were on our way, but we didn't turn back because of the sand storm). The end to the tale is that during the trip back my friends discovered that the Dragon Market was a pre-set location in Gertie and they found their way there the next day with no problems!
A GPS can be an amazing toy with the correct software. There is some really cool software that allows you to completely recreate your flight in 3-D with all the landscape features as well. An awesome way to share your experience with others who were not in the 'plane with you, although by law we always have maps in the cockpit as a back-up plan.

What is your opinion on the use of GPS's? And if you have one, what is its name and why?

I would like to thank Bev and Vince for taking me out with them when I was in Dubai and I hopethat you enjoyed my retelling of our adventure.


Salty McSalterson said...

I completely agree that the car GPS navigators can be a pain in the butt, especially when they are completely wrong, as they tend to be when you get further into the middle of nowhere.
I, however, could not live without my trusty GPS. It is a land navigation GPS though, and does not have an annoying airplane stewardess voice giving you step by step instructions. Instead, it has a lovely little digital map that tells me where I am and where I need to be. How to actually get there is up to me, so it doesn't quote take away all sense of adventure.
Great for camping, too! If you find the perfect spot or want to remember where the water (or your tent) is, you can save it for years and then come back to that spot even if the surroundings have changed.

Kim said...

And telling your friends how to get there too!

julochka said...

hi kim--

i'm gonna be in singapore next week. and my GPS is my iPhone. we've been using it for geocaching, but generally, must admit i'm opposed to them. because they make us dumb. people have literally driven off bridges and things b/c their GPS told them to...that's lame.


Kim said...

@ julochka: Enjoy your trip to Singapore. Geocashing sounds like fun - I need to invest in a GPS first! Thats scary about people driving of bridges. If I remember correctly the UK Ambulance services are now REQUIRED to have a map because the GPS is not infalible and there have been patient deaths as a result of arriving late.

Sarah Laurence said...

Our GPS told us to take a turn off a bridge in Boston onto a street far BELOW us. They have their limitations as you point out so well. I fear we’ll lose our ability to navigate, but it beats trying to read a map while driving (when alone.) We haven’t named ours, and only use it when going to a place we’ve never been to before.

Nice to connect with you!