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View Full Version : OT: Treachery of GPS Devices.



EddyCurr
01-04-2014, 01:06 AM
Over the years, I have read with great interest the tragic tales
of travellers lured to their deaths by blindly relying on directions
provided by GPS devices.

The ordeal of Albert and Rita Chretien, a retired BC couple led
astray in the wilds of Nevada early in the spring of 2011 by their
GPS is foremost in mind. Stuck in snow and mud, Mr Chretien
attempted to walk out in search of help and died, Mrs Chretien
stayed with the vehicle and survived for SEVEN WEEKS before a
chance discovery by riders on horseback. I have had some much
less disasterous, but still unsettling experiences with GPS directions
myself.

The subject comes to mind now because for the second time in
less than two weeks, I have had an out-of-province tractor trailer
rig show up in my residential neighborhood after being misguided
by not one, but two separate GPS units in each of the vehicles.
The drivers have wound up here following directions they expected
would deliver them to a new trucking terminal recently opened in
an industrial area many miles eastward.

The root cause of the problem seems to be that the terminal address
is in a region that shows as undeveloped in the GPS mapping software.
Unaware of this, the drivers have keyed in the destination address
and then settled in to follow the resulting instructions provided
by the devices. Not being familiar with the city, they don't realize
the extent of the problem until they are well and truly into the soup.

What is worse, is that when I tried to get them into the general vicinity
of the destination by keying in an address on the perimeter of the no
-man's land, the route plotted from here to there takes them along a
decidely UNtruck-friendly path through a busy retail area with lots of
intersections, vehicle and pedestrian traffic, parking and other types
of obstacles for big rigs to navigate. Taking a route like that is bound
to lead to trouble.

It is unforgivable that GPS units do not detect errors and failsafe in
some fashion rather than lead users into situations they may not
easily back out of.

In the past I have been able to guide lost auto drivers with directions
and skeches that promised to get them to where they intended to be.
However, with these trucks that can't cruise around in and out of side
streets and dead ends as they please, I just piloted both rigs to their
destination.

In due course, I expect that the truck terminal and the region it is in
will be added to the GPS maps, but this still leaves the issue of future
dead zones resulting in the GPS issuing erroneous directions to users.

Save & carry your maps !

.

dp
01-04-2014, 01:44 AM
Save & carry your maps !

.

That makes no sense. Maps were the problem. The drivers didn't know the GPS maps were dated and won't know that printed maps are dated. A route is only as good as the map you are carrying at the time, GPS or not. Don't save your maps - toss them and replace them with new maps monthly. The FAA requires date of obsolescence on aviation charts because the world is constantly changing and last year's map is not good for anything. I prefer av charts to maps because they're topo and accurate with lots of landmarks highlighted. They also have handy lat/lon markings to compare with GPS coords. These cartoon boxes they call GPS today are a joke.

As for GPS, they tell you where you are but nothing about the condition of the roads. I use Streets and Trips because you can update it on line and even after that it's still stale. This getting lost problem is the same as it was in the 1950s except bigger and more traffic.

I bought a $950 GPS receiver (Garmin Zumo) and it was all cartoons and maps. I hated it and gave it away and that person gave it back. POS has a postage stamp area of what they call map surrounded by touch buttons and fancy digital borders. The 2x3" screen is ruined for mapping by the useless largely static clutter. Not that I'm opinionated or anything :)

J Tiers
01-04-2014, 02:33 AM
That makes no sense. Maps were the problem. The drivers didn't know the GPS maps were dated and won't know that printed maps are dated.

Disagree. Violently.

Maps, particularly ones for urban areas, are rarely that dated, for the simple reason that the stuff they show does not change easily. It stays much the same for decades, because changes are difficult in built-up areas, and even out in open areas, roads don't change that often. The map usually has enough data to get you at least close, AND it then becomes obvious that you will need added data when what you see doesn't match the map.

Minor things, like streets being one-way, and the like, DO change. Highways get added, developments are added, etc. But, the "structure" of town tends to be the same.

That newly one-way street is still THERE, it just has to be accessed a different way. The added highway took away a block or so of "North Boniface St", but the rest of the street is still there, you just get there a slightly different way. An added development won't be on the map, but an added development it rarely deletes a street that is already there, it is built around the existing streets.

The map has as its reference points the structure of roads that existed at one time. Your route is necessarily limited to, and circumscribed by, the roads shown. It is shown in "vehicle space", in terms of things vehicles can do.

By contrast, the GPS has as its reference a point in 3D space. It is wonderful if you have a helicopter, you could theoretically get to any place that isn't below ground. But it has no inherent relation to *any* road whatsoever. "Roads" are an alien construct that is supposed to be superimposed on the GPS "map".

When "highway 40" (US 40/I-64) was being completely re-done here, obviously a map was going to show the old version as if it was still available, suggesting that you take it.

BUT.... when you found that it was blocked, THE MAP WOULD OFFER YOU AN ALTERNATIVE. In fact, it would offer you A UNIVERSE OF ALTERNATIVES.

A GPS, if not properly updated, and some were NOT, would offer you "highway 40", just as if it were open. When you ended up with the front bumper against a barrier, you were on your own to figure out what to do, the GPS had no more to offer.

Furthermore, the maps for GPS are often wrong, due to their sources of information being wrong, or incomplete.. We often visit my wife's family, who live a mile outside of Norwalk OH. Another visiting relative had a GPS, and I checked it out to see how it did. We put in the address of the house as a destination, while we were actually sitting in the driveway of the house.

The GPS wanted us to get back on the road, and then drive a mile or so further to about where Kramer's Store is. Apparently all the group of addresses along that part of the road were arbitrarily assigned to approximately the location of Kramer's Store. I suppose were were lucky they weren't assigned further along, or we would have been told to go to the town square of Milan Oh.

Maps would not have sent us wrong, they would have shown us Whittlesey Rd, and left it to us to locate the address, which would have been OK, really. We would have known we needed to find the actual address.

dp
01-04-2014, 02:44 AM
Disagree. Violently.

I violently (not that I know what that means) suggest you re-read the OP's third paragraph.

Optics Curmudgeon
01-04-2014, 03:05 AM
While I agree that maps should always accompany a GPS, the choice of the Chretien case is ironic, since they (according to their family) had chosen to take a scenic route they found on a map instead of the directions from the GPS. They mistakenly believed that the Forest Service road they took was an improved road and got stuck when it turned to muck. Albert took the GPS with him to try and get help, but all it was going to tell him in the wilderness was his location, not where he might find help. Unless he already knew where he was going it was useless. I still carry maps, but have had very few serious glitches with a properly updated GPS.

darryl
01-04-2014, 03:09 AM
I think it's up to the trucker and his company jointly to see that he has a viable guide to get to his destination. Regardless of the method used- gps, paper maps, laser-guided autonomous drone, the accuracy of the guidance should be known and checked regularly. Of course in this day and age, it's more like 'got your gps? See ya- and the blame probably goes on the trucker.

Black Forest
01-04-2014, 03:15 AM
The truck drivers are supposed to be professionals correct? They should know the limitations of their equipment including the GPS system. If they don't update the system and carry up to date maps they are at fault not the GPS system.

As to hikers and such it is of course a shame but they also should not venture out without the proper training and equipment. People shouldn't blame the tools if they don't know how to use them.

J Tiers
01-04-2014, 03:27 AM
I violently (not that I know what that means) suggest you re-read the OP's third paragraph.

And that would be significant why? I read it originally, and I read it again. Does it have some significance which I have not covered already in my comments?

I do not think so.

"The drivers have wound up here following directions they expected
would deliver them to a new trucking terminal recently opened in
an industrial area many miles eastward."

The "many miles eastward" is your clue to the issue.....

The street they wanted (call it "Eastward street") must exist as a name in two locations.... A city street map book would have an index with both occurrences listed. A plain street map would have them both shown, but would leave it up to you to find them.

The GPS knows about a spot in 3D space..... to make that into a street address, a cross-reference must be done... And in this case, the cross-reference is dead wrong. It must refer to the wrong "Eastward Street".

And, nobody bothered to give the GPS reference for the terminal. That would have instantly told them where they were going, and saved the problems, although it might not have given the right path to get there.

The GPS system is not robust enough to allow ANY alternative.... it gives you the "right answer" according to it's information, and that's it. No further information. If you don't like it , you are cut loose to handle it yourself on your own.

A street map is resilient.... if you know where on it you want to go, you can develop many alternative routes.

However, the directions need to be decent.... It may not be very helpful to give the address, such as some number on "Ellery Street" in New York City... you might search the map for days without locating "Ellery street" on a plain map of NYC.

It's common to give directions in a better manner. If I were to direct you to a particular restaurant here, I might give the address, but I would also likely tell you that it is a block south of the intersection of Clayton Road and Big Bend Rd, which are main streets which would be easy to find on a map. I might further mention that if you cross the interstate highway you went too far.

In the case of "Ellery Street", If I tell you it is near the intersection of Broadway and Flushing in Kings, you will do much better. Ditto if you have a street map book. That is similar to giving the GPS reference.

darryl
01-04-2014, 03:38 AM
The gps system has its limitations, obviously. It's not to blame, but it can't be relied upon.

Some years back a group of us hikers (not including me at this time, thankfully) hiked up Mt Baker. It was a beautiful day, and the then-president of the hiking club was checking his gps every few minutes, making sure it was tracking them correctly through the terrain. As they were returning from their destination a snow storm hit and it became a white-out. Both gps units failed to work, and they had no choice but to hole up and wait. There they all were, two of them banging on their gps units, to no avail. Four hours later, after they had all panicked themselves almost witless, the storm stopped and the gps was working again. They were so close to the parking lot, but had no way of knowing it, or how to proceed without stepping off a cliff. I'm not blaming the equipment or anyone, just relating a true story. I've been up there when a snowstorm hit, and I navigated by the feel of my boots- don't need no stinkin gps :) But I can get lost driving to a place I've been before, on a clear day:(

Circlip
01-04-2014, 05:45 AM
All part of the dumbing down process. How do those who generate the directions "pre-program(me)" the dummy box? Someone sat in front of a keyboard and microphone in China has no idea that the road marked is a dirt track so two parallel lines donote a "Road" suitable for all forms of transport, likewise, a tele-service operator in India hasn't been informed that some prat has just dug up the fibre optic cable with a JCB.

One thing to be sure, when an electronic blackout knackers the nav sats, it won't effect the bits of paper with colo(u)red lines on them, and a few will still be able to interpret them.

Regards Ian.

Circlip
01-04-2014, 05:46 AM
All part of the dumbing down process. How do those who generate the directions "pre-program(me)" the dummy box? Someone sat in front of a keyboard and microphone in China has no idea that the road marked is a dirt track, so two parallel lines donote a "Road" suitable for all forms of transport, likewise, a tele-service operator in India hasn't been informed that some prat has just dug up the fibre optic cable with a JCB.

One thing to be sure, when an electronic blackout knackers the nav sats, it won't effect the bits of paper with colo(u)red lines on them, and a few will still be able to interpret them.

Regards Ian.

ckelloug
01-04-2014, 06:06 AM
The problem really has two parts. GPS and the map components. GPS itself is relatively accurate, especially with a kalman filter. (It can be made so accurate in fact that I have seen problems at work where we detected that continental drift moved conventional survey benchmarks centimeters per year with respect to the GPS coordinates.) The problem is with navigating with a routing algorithm on underlying data that is always busy becoming invalid either due to continental drift(tiny) or Caltrans closing the road(major). . . A routing algorithm is good only insofar as the underlying data is good. Unfortunately roads change quite quickly and a single small to moderate error can make the routing algorithm give useless information. The last GPS I had even had a feature that would allow you to tell the routing algorithm that a path was blocked and needed a detour. Most GPS's will let you look at the map near where you are, even if the routing algorithm is routing you somewhere bad. GPS's aren't intelligent when the navigate, they are just running a graph theory algorithm like Astar with weighted edges.

All in all, I'd say that the problem is mainly with users having blind faith in computers doing a task they don't understand. Overall, the navigation units for cars could definitely be better but it would often help if users simply plugged the GPS navigator into the computer updated the maps now and then. . . It still doesn't fix gross errors like the I-phone navigation application that was directing cars onto an active runway but I think people using common sense might prevent this sort of problem.

MrSleepy
01-04-2014, 06:18 AM
You do have to apply intelligence when using GPS devices.

A few years ago we had a strange case of a Syrian lorry driver who was contracted to transport some classic cars from Turkey to Gibralta.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/22/satnav_blunder/

Instead of selecting Gibralta ,he selected Gibralta Point.

So he blindly followed his GPS all across europe,through France , across the English channel by ferry , and merrily all the way to Grimsby.(On the north east coast of the UK).

Gibralta is on the southern Spanish coast a good few thousand miles away from where he ended up.

Rob

Weston Bye
01-04-2014, 07:51 AM
It's a wonder I survived.

Back in the mid '70s I got an onsite computer repair job wherein I drove to the location based on only a street address and city, phoned in from Chicago, anywhere in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, and to a lesser extent, Ohio and Indiana. (driving in any direction but south in Lower Peninsula Michigan presents some natural limitations to getting too lost :o)
A good set of paper maps was my only navigation aid and I seldom had to backtrack. In addition, on successive trips into various regions I sought out alternate or parallel routes to prove out the maps and vary the scenery along the way.

Last year I rode with George to Cabin Fever, trusting him with the navigation. He, in turn trusted the GPS app for his phone and we completed the trip without mishap. However, without having a map that I could refer to for my own peace of mind, I experienced a vague unsettled and disoriented feeling for the whole trip.

RussZHC
01-04-2014, 08:56 AM
Probably just different words than previous replies but it is what goes "in" that is responsible.

Agreed that with a paper map the general lay of the town will not change but it does not help if the street is added to and is given a new name in some cases (say west of a specific intersection, Winnipeg is notorious for doing that) or split by new development and name left the same [try to figure out at the place why 327 is there but 329 is not where it was but literally miles of circumnavigation away], it does not help if there is a "Lowson" and a "Lawson" [now of course you can name things similar, just saying the human error of written directions in that example was the "o" looking like an "a"] and it does not help if a number is just wrong [1580 instead of 1500, and those could be miles apart].

Let alone all the issues of trying to keep GPS up-to-date. I don't own one, do any have a method where the individual can update bit by bit as opposed to waiting for the parent company to create a download? For that matter, how often is Google Maps updated?

Weston Bye
01-04-2014, 09:02 AM
A curious dichotomy? I am almost compulsive-obsessive about roadmaps, but have few reservations about trusting my CAD/CAM software (another current thread) to navigate an end mill through metal without first reviewing all the g-code.

David Powell
01-04-2014, 10:00 AM
A curious dichotomy? I am almost compulsive-obsessive about roadmaps, but have few reservations about trusting my CAD/CAM software (another current thread) to navigate an end mill through metal without first reviewing all the g-code.

Nor do I intend to buy one! I have travelled many miles with friends who use them. I see two problems , 1) Driver distraction while using them and 2) Incorrect routing causing driver frustration. Before I leave my house I look at the maps( I have map books for everywhere I travel,) I write out my own basic directions, and write down the relevant map book pages along with them. Even though my memory is not what It used to be I can generally get within a mile or so of my final destination before rechecking street addresses. If I feel I am off course I pull over and recheck. My written notes generally give me enough, but the maps give an extra level of help if, for instance I have turned left instead of right. At the very least my method ensures I am not accompanied by a demanding woman's voice !!! Incidentally, though my vehicles have radios and players in them I seldom use them. Nowadays driving needs my full concentration. regards David Powell.

Rustybolt
01-04-2014, 10:06 AM
A map.
And a compass.
My wife could get lost driving on a one way street.
I have the reputation of being able to find a place with the least amount of directions.
Some people are good at it some are not.
Although I don't think all the GPS's and maps and compasses in the world could have saved the couple in Nevada.

metalmagpie
01-04-2014, 10:25 AM
Reading the OP, I don't see a problem. I *like* it that big trucks are directed to a sort of Bermuda Triangle that they can't get out of. If a few million more of them went away it might almost be fun to drive on the interstates again. :-)

metalmagpie

wendtmk
01-04-2014, 10:27 AM
I'm with Weston. Just how in the world did mankind survive prior to the practical usage of GPS?

Having flown fighters for Uncle Sam's Great Fraternal Flying Club, we learned early on to "trust your instruments," but back them up with real dead reckoning - ie, a clock, a compass, and a chart.

Dead reckoning is aptly named. "If you don't reckon right, you're dead"

Mark

Willy
01-04-2014, 10:36 AM
Albert and Rita Chretien where not lead astray by their gps unit, they were lead astray by ignorance on how to interpret the directions that their gps gave them.

Albert Chretien was a bit of an adventurist, he often choose the road less traveled in order to explore unseen country and the beauty that back roads often offer to those willing to take the effort required to navigate these types of roads.
He had recently purchased the gps unit before his fateful journey and was not familiar in it's operation or the consequences of blindly following it's directions. He followed what the gps unit told him would be the shortest route to a small town on the Nevada border.
Unfortunately the gps unit was not able to convey the fact to Mr. Chretien that taking such an inhospitable route could lead to disaster. He was woefully ill equipped for taking such a perilous road at the time of year that he did.

A mini van is not the type of vehicle one should stake his life on for exploring back roads in the mountains. He should have realized that he was heading for trouble as soon as he got off of the highway. Unfortunately Mr. Chretien paid the ultimate price for not demonstrating a bit of common sense.


Commercial trucks have several excellent gps units at there disposal. These units should not be confused with the more common and much cheaper garden verity automotive gps units. The hardware is larger and easier to use and much more robust, in keeping with the environment that they must operate under.
The software is specifically aimed at the commercial trucker. Weigh scale locations, service locations, motor carrier atlas, bridge weight restrictions and clearances and truck friendly routes are just a few of the benefits of using a tool that caters to a specific market.
Most units constantly update their database via wi-fi in order to keep abreast of route changes as well as weather or construction activity. Don't expect to buy one of these for a couple of hundred bucks though.
Like any good tool you get what you pay for, and like any good tool, knowledge on how to use it properly is undoubtedly the biggest factor in a successful outcome.

MotorradMike
01-04-2014, 10:39 AM
People shouldn't blame the tools if they don't know how to use them.

Exactly.

Good navigation requires effort.
There is nothing worse on a road trip than a companion who doesn't want to drive AND won't put any effort into navigating.
GPS is just one more tool which can be extremely useful.

gbritnell
01-04-2014, 10:40 AM
I used to do a lot of motorcycle trips and one of our bunch had a very expensive (at the time) motorcycle specific GPS unit. I say motorcycle specific because it had bigger buttons for gloved hands and was waterproof. Not willing to put out that much money for a M.C. specific unit I found at the time a Quest GPS computer. It was smaller but had the feature of being waterproof. The greatest thing about it was that it could be pre-programmed for a specific route. The mapping software was loaded onto my computer and a route could be plotted by using waypoints (road intersections etc.) and ultimately the final route by connecting all the waypoints. Sure a little time consuming but completely accurate. When the Quest was outdated and the mapping couldn't be updated my children bought me a Garmin Nuvi as a Christmas present. The thing that I don't like about the new units is that they direct you the way that they want you to go which may not be the way that you want to go,(other than the shortest route, quickest route or no interstates).
When I go somewhere I use my GPS but I still carry the old paper maps as a backup. Before GPS I was able to navigate almost anywhere I wanted to go using paper so I still find it very reassuring.
gbritnell

Willy
01-04-2014, 10:46 AM
Reading the OP, I don't see a problem. I *like* it that big trucks are directed to a sort of Bermuda Triangle that they can't get out of. If a few million more of them went away it might almost be fun to drive on the interstates again. :-)

metalmagpie


Name me two things in your house that did not come on a truck, then tell me how much fun life would be without them.:rolleyes:
Demonstrating some common sense and courtesy should be a prerequisite of obtaining a driver's license. This would make driving a lot more pleasurable and much less dangerous.
This of course should apply to all drivers.

J Tiers
01-04-2014, 11:37 AM
Name me two things in your house that did not come on a truck, then tell me how much fun life would be without them.:rolleyes:


All the way from the source to you? Directly? Not in most cases, and not on one truck.

A truck is a short distance device, or should be. Truck to the train, train to the city, truck to the destination. Fine. One train can replace 100 to 300 trucks for long haul shipping, and is more efficient.

Truck to terminal, terminal to next terminal by truck on 1500 miles of roads, terminal to destination by truck.... Not so good.

tmarks11
01-04-2014, 11:42 AM
One of the funnier things I have seen wrt this topic is people relying on online-mapping solutions on their smart phones.

Yes, google maps is great, until you lose your 3G connection.... which is probably precisely when you REALLY need that map...

I was shopping for houses in a rural area of the county, where cell phone reception is mostly nonexistent. You would think my real-estate agent, who lives here, and sells lots of houses, would be familiar with this problem, and be prepared to work around it...

but not so much, as on three occasions (we were driving in convoy), he pulled over, and came to consult my GPS for directions when his iPhone mapping software quit....

My iPhone, with NAVIGON off-line maps, meanwhile, still knew exactly where we were. $30 to purchase the app could have saved him some embarrasment.

The third time, I just pulled around him and led him to the destination.

Danl
01-04-2014, 11:46 AM
For the most part I appreciate my cell phone based GPS, and as needed, my standalone GPS.

However, sometimes the routes selected by these can be arbitrary and totally illogical. Due to a lack of being updated periodically, they can become outdated and potentially can lead one astray. Road index maps are good for the first week (month, year....take your pick) and then they become less than helpful.

Just my $ 0.02.

Dan

Noitoen
01-04-2014, 12:14 PM
I do some geocaching and when I use my gps in the mountains, it doesn't auto route. It sticks a "pin" at the destination and "stretches" a rubber band to your present location. If I have a map of the zone, I use it otherwise I follow the trails trying to shorten the distance. Meanwhile, the unit plots a trail where I've walked to help me return.
Last year I went to France and, without a local map on the gps, I could still navigate without getting lost. Just marked the coordinates of the various points I had to go and, keeping off the major free-ways, following the destination arrow and shortening the distance. After 2 days I had a route drawn on the unit, much easier to follow.

Willy
01-04-2014, 12:49 PM
All the way from the source to you? Directly? Not in most cases, and not on one truck.

A truck is a short distance device, or should be. Truck to the train, train to the city, truck to the destination. Fine. One train can replace 100 to 300 trucks for long haul shipping, and is more efficient.

Truck to terminal, terminal to next terminal by truck on 1500 miles of roads, terminal to destination by truck.... Not so good.

Trains are more efficient when comparing the cost per ton is the the only criteria.
Most commodities though are time sensitive, take groceries as an example. Would you have your produce put on a train? Of course not.

Most business today rely on just in time inventory in order to reduce the costs associated with keeping items on hand. Auto makers for example used to keep acres and acres of components on hand for their production lines. Now days they have no more than one shift's worth of parts in stock, relying on trucks to bolster their inventory at the last possible moment.
This practice has turned the nations highways into the stockrooms and warehouses that once were part of every business. Trucks are much more capable in dealing with the logistics of transporting general freight, probably why there are millions of them in use.

If it's not on the floor, it's probably on a truck.

EddyCurr
01-04-2014, 02:00 PM
Checking in, I see some others have feelings each way on the
topic. The device I am using does not favour lengthy input,
but here are a few remarks.

The truck terminal has a numeric address consisting of a building
number (street + lot#) plus avenue. Likewise, my residence (only
mine is ave + lot# plus street). No road names to further complicate.

The drivers were keying in Hi-Way 9's location of 6031 - 67a ave
but the GPS was responding by registering a destination more than
60 blocks west of the address keyed in. No complaint, questioning,
other flags suggesting 'uh, is this what you mean? Essentially, 'got
it, let's go !'

About the devices - first rig had a husky impressive unit that had to
be one of the forementioned pro trucker devices - that's the device
that set a course from my site through the coffee shop neighborhood
instead of getting the rig back onto the truck route/freeway. The
driver also had a Magellan, which I have some familiarity with.
Second driver had an in-truck unit and a new-to-him Samsung device
that was a big phone, a small tablet or I don't know what. I twiddled
with it for a moment and gave up once I saw how poor the interface
worked for me, a phoneophobe. Didn't bother to look at the pro unit.

Third, in my part of the world, transportation of anything smaller
than bulk material by rail is dead and it isn't likely to return to the
way it was in my youth here because the sidings are being given up
and developed. Here, a LOT of freight moves by road. Rail handles
containers and there are break-in-bulk terminals here, but in the past
car loads were spotted in the customer's yard or within a mile or so.
Not saying this is right, just how it is near me.

.

epanzella
01-04-2014, 02:13 PM
If the trucker's GPS wasn't updated as to the new terminal's street address, a paper map probably wouldn't either. I agree with the people that said a GPS is only as good as your ability to interpret what it's telling you. I'm a hunter and a boater and use GPS constantly, but you can't just blindly follow a GPS on a route you're not at least slightly familiar with. This is not the GPS's fault. If you ask it to direct you to the town on the other side of a cliff, it's not going to route you around the obstacle unless you set up a multi-waypoint route around it. I see boaters running 35 knots at night or in poor visibility because they have GPS. Even if they know enough to create a route around reefs and islands, the GPS won't know about the oil tanker or barge in tow that's on a collision course with them. You also have to know how to navigate without the electronics as the when the GPS system goes down, it's always on the darkest night or foggiest day. You shouldn't curse your hammer because you hit your thumb. GPS is an awesome tool but only if used properly.

Frank K
01-04-2014, 03:10 PM
Don’t know if its apathy on the part of the mapping database suppliers or what, but about 8 years ago I bought a handheld GPS made by Garmin and around the same time a friend who lives next door to me bought one made by Tom Tom. Put in my street address, and the Garmin was dead on to the bottom of my driveway. Put my neighbor’s street address into the Tom Tom, and it showed his house almost two city blocks further down the street.

Now, we live in an area where the streets, street addresses, and for the most part, the individual houses haven’t changed in over 70 years. My friend wrote to the maker of his GPS explaining the problem and got a nice letter in return indicating that they would “look into the issue” and if found necessary, would correct the problem in a future mapping software update. Not a free update of course.

Fast forward 8 years. Bought a new 2014 Ford product with a Nav system. Their software shows MY house almost two city blocks further away. The simple solution – put in a fake street address that resolves to the correct map location for my house. The interesting part – that fake street address does not actually exist and can never exist since I live on a street that is only four blocks in length. If I actually lived at the fake address I’d be living in NYC harbor.

They say not to put your real street address in your vehicle GPS as HOME in case its stolen so the thieves won’t know where you live. Maybe it’s an un-documented security feature supplied by Ford? But I have to think that if their mapping database software can be that wrong in an area where nothing has changed in over 70 years how many other serious errors exist in the database?

Stern
01-04-2014, 03:41 PM
WOW, really confused on this thread ... started out as a "I hate GPS" and turned into "trucker bashing" ??? I have a GPS and have no issues, because I dont expect miracles. Sometimes it screws up (or you screw up entering data) but I find it a lot easier than maps. I drive for a living doing service work, and my GPS cuts travel time and aggravation a lot. Its a tool, not a "mystery box with godly powers". Just use it as a tool and there should be no problems :)

danlb
01-04-2014, 04:00 PM
I think that people are expecting more of portable GPS units and their software than is reasonable.

The GPS mapping software does not have the physical location all the billions of street addresses in the world stored in it's little 256 megabyte memory. It has the range of street numbers for a particular stretch of road AS FILED BY THE DEVELOPER WITH THE CITY/COUNTY/STATE. If the road is one block long and has 20 addresses on it the GPS guesses that each house is 1/20 of a block apart. Extend that to country roads and you get 5 houses in 10 miles, so it guesses that the houses are 2 miles apart even though the actual house locations may be 100 feet apart.

Now loop back to the bold text. The initial map of a new subdivision is provided by the developer to the authorities. If they don't file it properly or if they don't build exactly what they planned, the maps end up being off. Sub developed acreage may just show several hundred acres as one big parcel with a range of addresses. Those addresses end up assigned to the point where the property touches an established road.. That's hardly the fault of the GPS software. That appears to be what happened in the OP situation.

I don't see where the paper maps are much better in maps are much better in EddyCurr's situation. The biggest advantage of the paper map is that it would not show the address of the brand new truck terminal at all. If it's not on the map the trucker would call for directions. The directions may or may not be viable, but that's a different problem.

One of the things I like about using Google Navigation is that it will show me street views of the turns on the route as well as the destination.

dp
01-04-2014, 04:50 PM
My point earlier was old maps are of little value to find your way today. GPS maps are notoriously not new because it costs to update them. There are also projection errors in the GPS maps owing to datum differences so the lat/log from the GPS doesn't fall exactly where the real world is on the map.

If you depend on maps then get a map set and keep it current, be it dead tree or digital.

The world changes daily, particularly regards road repairs, closures, and re-routing. Boston during the big dig is a good example. This place: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/united_states.html keeps old maps so I don't have to though I do have a friend who collects old maps for the historical information. Records of Route 66 are sketchy so having the original maps helps.

Finally - if a guy is just plain stupid the best maps won't help. Bottom line though is you can only blame the driver not the equipment.

jlevie
01-04-2014, 05:53 PM
The "accuracy"of GPS navigation is primarily determined by the degree of detail in the "address to coordinate cross reference" that has been manually entered into the database. It isn't unusual to have the GPS announce that you have arrived at your destination when you are a block or more away. Even in areas that have existed, unchanged, for a hundred years. All that means is that the level of detail in the database is only as good as block numbers (or worse). The GPS knows that the address is in the block or some larger distance, but not exactly where it is because that it lacks that level of detail. As you move away from populated errors that distance can grow dramatically (to on the order of a mile or more in rural areas), depending on the importance of the "target" and area. And then, there can be gross errors in the database (it is a human activity). Add on to that changes in roads, etc., and it something of a wonder that GPS nav works as good as it does.

I have a race car and have on occasion gone to little known (outside of the club racing community) tracks out in the middle of essentially nowhere. Plugging in the address of the track may not work as it may not be in the database. But the roads are in the database. So finding the coordinates via Google earth (the track is visible from orbit) and using that as the destination always works. On other occasions I've used driving directions to the location (for places not readily identifiable from orbit) and maps in conjunction with Google earth to find the coordinates for GPS navigation to the location.

I really miss the way GPS automotive navigation systems worked in the past. Because of limited memory, they had a computer based map database and routing system that you used to load map data of areas of interest and optional routing data. Being able to see that level of detail and area on a computer monitor and seeing the calculated route was a pretty nice feature as compared to what you can see and do with the current nav units and their tiny screens. And none that I know of now have easy ways of designating a specific route.

J Tiers
01-04-2014, 06:22 PM
It likely is true that if you are in a largish city, especially one on the east coast, you can be pretty sure of the accuracy of the GPS when it comes to the location of upscale restaurants. Possibly also for other things, if they don't interfere.

If you live elsewhere, not so much, but then, if you live elsewhere, you aren't important enough to need a GPS, or to be able to afford one, so it is of little moment if the maps are accurate or not.....

This is almost surely an evil attitude.... but it may be reasonably true for all that.

The Artful Bodger
01-04-2014, 07:06 PM
Unfortunately, as has been discovered in fairly recent times, the earth is not flat! But maps are flat so there is always the potential for a street on one flat map not quite meeting up with the same street continued on an adjoining map sheet, of course very clever people have been trying to eliminate all these little glitches for some time now but there will be plenty more waiting to be found and until they are that will be just example of why a GPS device might lead you astray.

TRX
01-04-2014, 07:08 PM
The GPS was probably working just fine. The problem usually lies with the satellite navigation software, which is an entirely different system, even though people seem to call it "GPS", like the people who call a dish TV antenna a "satellite."

EddyCurr
01-04-2014, 07:52 PM
With the margin of error demonstrated in my examples, in
Europe where countries are smaller, the trucks could have
been off the mark by an international border or two.

Say what you all will, the problem still comes down to a
user interface that takes your input, discovers it doesn't
recognize this and unilaterally decides to direct to some
other random destination without so much of a how do you
do.

Kind of like the old days when you could format your drive
without the [Are you sure?] dialog requesting confirmation.

.

danlb
01-04-2014, 09:03 PM
It likely is true that if you are in a largish city, especially one on the east coast, you can be pretty sure of the accuracy of the GPS when it comes to the location of upscale restaurants. Possibly also for other things, if they don't interfere.

If you live elsewhere, not so much, but then, if you live elsewhere, you aren't important enough to need a GPS, or to be able to afford one, so it is of little moment if the maps are accurate or not.....

This is almost surely an evil attitude.... but it may be reasonably true for all that.

It sounds like you have had some bad experience with some very poor GPS software or GPS maps that were not updated regularly. That's a shame.

I've been using consumer grade GPS units for 20+ years and have found them to be quite usable. When traveling through unfamiliar areas of the western US the information was as good as the current AAA guides. Coincidentally, my wife's Magellin GPS has the AAA guide information built into it.

In recent years we've stopped using the dedicated GPS units and started using android phones with Google Maps and Google Navigation. It has the best, real time information on traffic problems. It also has a great interface for finding a specific restaurant or store as well as just finding the nearest one.

Like all tools, you need to read the manual and learn to use the GPS to get the most out of it, and then you need to maintain it with frequent updates.

Geocaching is a good game for practicing your GPS skills. http://www.geocaching.com/

Dan

J Tiers
01-04-2014, 09:35 PM
It sounds like you have had some bad experience with some very poor GPS software or GPS maps that were not updated regularly. That's a shame.

Nope, I don't have one, the few ones I have worked with belonged to others, and I wasn't impressed with their performance (didja guess that?). The highway 40 thing was widespread enough it got into the local paper....

The GPS receiver knows where it is. The problem is with the translation of that to a location with respect to roads and structures. Someone has to cross-link it to a map, and that is where the trouble starts.

Coverage in the hot coastal areas is good, although I guess tall buildings mess it up a bit, but out in the sticks (flyover land), it apparently isn't a high priority to get it right.... and I can see why.... it's expensive to KNOW you have it right, and really, do you think those folks really CARE? In general they do not, actually, so it's a "whatever".

Maps work fine, and don't need power.

I believe you are right, phone apps will likely replace the dedicated GPS.... They can combine maps with the GPS receiver, adding accuracy and allowing some creative problem-solving. It makes a lot more sense to me, although I don't have a smart phone (I'd have one but they are too big to carry..... I have pockets, not a purse).

The one benefit to a separate one is that you can call AND use the GPS receiver at once....

metalmagpie
01-04-2014, 09:52 PM
WOW, really confused on this thread ... started out as a "I hate GPS" and turned into "trucker bashing" ???

I would have thought that it would be clear to anyone that I was completely kidding about directing trucks to a Bermuda Triangle. But for those who didn't catch that, and were offended, I apologize. I really don't have anything against trucks. I just like to poke fun sometimes. Like, for example, I tell people that I know exactly how to cure overcrowded freeways - it's simple. Just take the driver's licenses away from the women! It gets a snicker sometimes, and rarely offends because people know me and that I'm way wack irreverent. Nuff said. - metalmagpie

Wheels17
01-04-2014, 11:15 PM
Sometimes the map "improvements" seem to be just the opposite. We've lived near an 11' 6" railroad bridge for 17 years. In the first fourteen years, I saw the bridge hit twice. In the last three years, I've seen it hit 7 times. Speculation on my part, but I'll be some gps map changed and now routes semi's down that road.

Of course, there are at least 5 signs indicating an 11'6" bridge in the mile leading up to the bridge, and the stupid drivers keep running into the bridge. Including at least two 13 1/2' tall trailers. Those hit low enough that they clean the top completely off the trailer.

Our bridge doesn't compare to this one, though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xzkWTcDZFH0

andywander
01-04-2014, 11:27 PM
Treachery is a willful betrayal, and I can't believe that GPS devices are actually programmed to do that.

Sure they sometimes use incorrect info.

But, sometimes, I hit my finger with the hammer when I am pounding in a nail. I don't consider that to be treachery, by either the hammer or myself.

And it wouldn't make me go back to using rocks to pound nails, instead of those damned newfangled(and treacherous) hammers.

danlb
01-04-2014, 11:48 PM
The GPS receiver knows where it is. The problem is with the translation of that to a location with respect to roads and structures. Someone has to cross-link it to a map, and that is where the trouble starts.

Coverage in the hot coastal areas is good, although I guess tall buildings mess it up a bit, but out in the sticks (flyover land), it apparently isn't a high priority to get it right.... and I can see why.... it's expensive to KNOW you have it right....


That's not really a problem. In the late 1960's my dad showed me how his firm was using surveys and 3D aerial photography to validate old maps so they would only re-survey as needed. Modern computing power has made it super simple compare aerial shots with the database to see if the road is where the map says it should be. Google appears to have done an impressive job of mapping addresses to the physical location. When I go to street view for an address it almost always shows the correct spot.



Maps work fine, and don't need power.

I believe you are right, phone apps will likely replace the dedicated GPS.... They can combine maps with the GPS receiver, adding accuracy and allowing some creative problem-solving. It makes a lot more sense to me, although I don't have a smart phone (I'd have one but they are too big to carry..... I have pockets, not a purse).

The one benefit to a separate one is that you can call AND use the GPS receiver at once....

In the last few years the 4G networks allow the GPS and phone to work at the same time.

"Maps work fine, and don't need power." That assumes that you know where you are and have a compass and light. I can navigate quite well with paper and compass but I know many people who can't.

I've suggested that my 80 year old mom and her boyfriend learn to use the GPS on his phone just enough to figure out their current location. Given that information they can use a map to find a route to home. They live in central Oregon where it's easy to get lost.

Dan

J Tiers
01-04-2014, 11:56 PM
Google appears to have done an impressive job of mapping addresses to the physical location. When I go to street view for an address it almost always shows the correct spot.



I've noticed a number of instances where the spot indicated by Google is not even on the correct side of the street.... and may be significantly wrong in location.

The "street view" can correct that in some cases, if you can see the actual location. In other cases, it's more difficult. But it is quite nice to see the building in "street view", that gives important visual cues to help locate it while you are driving.

Street maps in cities need no compass. As soon as you find the second intersection , you are fully oriented. In other places, there are usually many clues to identify "north", ranging from where the sun is (or some other star, at night) to where the lichen is on the tree, etc, etc.

As for the combined usage, it is more about being able to look at the screen at the same time you talk and listen. OK in some cases in quieter areas, where you can hold it out in front of you, but less so outdoors with a wind, or traffic noises.