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  • OT: Treachery of GPS Devices.

    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 !

    .
    Last edited by EddyCurr; 01-04-2014, 01:08 AM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by EddyCurr View Post

    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

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by dp View Post
      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.
      Last edited by J Tiers; 01-04-2014, 02:36 AM.
      CNC machines only go through the motions

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
        Disagree. Violently.
        I violently (not that I know what that means) suggest you re-read the OP's third paragraph.

        Comment


        • #5
          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.

          Comment


          • #6
            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.
            I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

            Comment


            • #7
              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.
              Location: The Black Forest in Germany

              How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by dp View Post
                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.
                Last edited by J Tiers; 01-04-2014, 03:31 AM.
                CNC machines only go through the motions

                Comment


                • #9
                  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
                  I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    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.
                    You might not like what I say,but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      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.
                      Last edited by Circlip; 01-04-2014, 05:48 AM.
                      You might not like what I say,but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        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.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          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
                          Last edited by MrSleepy; 01-04-2014, 10:23 AM. Reason: added link

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            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 )
                            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.
                            Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
                            ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~

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                            • #15
                              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?

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