OMG-PS: How Your Navigation System Can Drive You Round The Bend

    Posted by Ben Davidson about 7 months ago
    GPS has changed the way we drive for the better. 

    GPS has put an end to being lost, feeling frustrated, and never knowing exactly where we’re meant to be going. No longer do we have to drive through backstreets, trying to find oddly-named streets, squinting for road signs that seemingly aren’t visible from the road. With a few presses of a button, you have an onboard computer that will tell you how to get to anywhere in the country. GPS might not seem like that huge of an invention but, outside of safety improvements, has revolutionised the driving experience to the same degree.

    As GPS systems have moved from fanciful into essential, we’ve got used to having them around. Most of us wouldn’t dream of attempting a journey we haven’t done before without our helpful GPS issuing directions-- but is our trust sometimes misplaced? Could our navigational friend potentially cause problems for us in the future? 

    Below are some of the issues that you may experience with GPS. Read through these possibilities, and their fixes, to ensure you’re always right where you are supposed to be. 

    Directing You To The Wrong Place 

    Every so often, a story hits the headlines detailing how someone has managed to follow their sat nav to completely the wrong place. Whether it’s soccer fans driving to the wrong Lille or the unfortunate couple who misspelled Capri and ended up miles from their destination; these sat nav errors are surprisingly common. 

    Trusting our sat nav becomes ingrained. It tells us where to go, and we follow. However, there is always the possibility of you inputting the wrong details, or your device malfunctioning and plotting a route that is miles away from where you should actually be. 

    There are a few ways you can prevent this problem from happening to you:

    • Wherever possible, use the ZIP/postal code to set your destination. This is more reliable than using a generic place name; there are few cities with unique names, so there’s always a risk that you might be directed to the wrong one. ?
    • When you have a route, check the length of time your GPS suggests it will take to make the drive. Then, head to Google Maps and look for the same route that you have requested your GPS configure. Compare the estimated journey time between the two. If there are large discrepancies between the times then there’s a good chance something has gone wrong somewhere, and you need to reprogramme with more specific information. You should be suspicious of any difference in estimated journey time that is over half an hour. ?
    • Periodically check that the GPS is still moving towards the destination that you programmed. This is especially important if your journey has involved diversions or stoppages; such events can cause your GPS to reroute, and you shouldn’t rely on it always rerouting to the right destination. A quick check of route every few hours can ensure you’re still headed in the right direction. ?

    Even with these safeguards in place, there is always the chance that you will find yourself in the wrong place. There are a few other reasons this can happen, but by far the most common is discussed next… 

    Out Of Date Maps

    Road systems change all the time; try driving to a town you haven’t visited in the past year, and you’ll quickly see this in practice. New roads are built; old roads are closed; diversions are put in place. All of these changes can mean that the route your GPS suggests to you is no longer viable. 

    The above is why it’s absolutely essential to regularly update the maps on your GPS. This needn’t be a complicated task, nor an expensive one; grab promo codes and head to the site to download the latest maps for your device. Your GPS is only useful if it has relevant, up-to-the-moment information, so you need to upgrade your maps at least once every six months, or before any major journeys. 

    What can happen if you don’t upgrade your maps? You will receive incorrect information, potentially get lost, and find your route takes substantially longer than it should-- all the problems that GPS is meant to solve, not cause. 

    The Distraction Issue 

    Every GPS manufacturer will tell you that you should programme your device before you drive. If you need to make any changes while en route, you should pull over, and programme them safely. 

    However, let’s be realistic: most of us have, at some point, changed a route or programmed our GPS while we’re on the move. We shouldn’t; we even know we shouldn’t; but it’s one of those bad driving habits that is tough to shake. 

    This is a potentially serious distraction. Even if we’re not changing the entire route and are just following the directions, there is still the potential for our GPS to distract us from the road. The main cause of car accidents is driver error according to, and a huge number of these driver errors are related to distraction. When we’re distracted, our reaction times slow, we take our eyes off the road, and we run the risk of losing control of our car. 

    While it may be inconvenient, pulling to the side of the road to interact with your GPS is by far the best choice. When you’re following the directions, try -- as much as is possible -- to rely on the voice commands rather than following the map on the screen. If you do this, you can be sure that you’re keeping your eyes exactly where they should be, while still enjoying the benefits of navigation. 

    In Conclusion

    GPS has made life as a driver simpler, more efficient, and -- ultimately -- more enjoyable. However, it is possible to be too trusting of your navigational guide. By following the steps above, you will be able to ensure that you’re always on the right road, and your GPS is able to guide you to where you need to be. All you have to do now is decide where you want to explore next. 

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