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Be smart about using your GPS

By Kijiji Autos
be smart about using your GPS

Technology is everywhere today, and it’s making us increasingly dependent on our devices, from smartphones to tablets to computers.

This dependence extends to our cars. Bluetooth connectivity, voice commands, driver assistance features, and GPS systems have almost become must-haves.

And while these technologies can make driving easier and safer for us, an over-reliance on them can get us into trouble. This is particularly true with GPS systems, because we tend to use them most when heading somewhere we’ve never been.

Here are a few laughable examples of putting too much faith in a GPS:

The great European road trip

A 67-year-old Belgian woman set out in her car and asked her GPS to give her the best route to Brussels. The 145-kilometre trip should have taken her under two hours. However, two days later, the poor woman realized that the GPS had led her more than 1,400 kilometres astray through a number of European countries, finally delivering her to a destination in Croatia. Clearly the GPS was not the only one with a problem!

Taking a different path

An American who dutifully followed the instructions dictated by his GPS wound up driving several kilometres alongside a bicycle path in the middle of the night. He was finally stopped by the police, who’d received multiple complaints about the wayward driver. However, we’ll have to give him the benefit of the doubt, because some GPS systems offer routes for cars, pedestrians and even bicycles.

Airport express

At least two drivers in Alaska followed their iPhone GPS instructions down to the letter. But an Apple Maps error (that’s since been corrected) steered these unsuspecting drivers right onto an airport runway, when all they’d asked for was a route to the airport. The problem became such that warning signs had to be installed, reading: “Danger! Airport runway! Do not enter!”

This trip was all washed up

After navigating his vehicle off of a car ferry, a man in Alaska (yup, another one) obeyed the instructions from his GPS a little too precisely. The device told him rather vaguely to “turn left,” without specifying that he needed to exit the port area first. Without a second thought, he turned left and drove right into the ocean. Based on weather reports and eyewitness accounts, there was no fog and the sky was clear that day.

Why am I telling you this?

I’ve also had an experience with a less than trustworthy GPS. I’m from the Montreal area and know my way around pretty well, but one evening I decided to program my GPS to help me get to a new restaurant, knowing my trip would take me from the far west end of the Island of Montreal to the far east end. I entered the restaurant’s coordinates into my TomTom Start and headed out. My GPS is always programmed to find the shortest route, but this time I ignored some of its instructions because I knew which highway I wanted to take. It continued to ask me to return to its preferred route, and I continued to ignore it. I knew I’d only really need its help when I arrived on the east side of the Island, so its constant nagging didn’t bother me. Then, all of a sudden, my GPS announced: “You’ve arrived at your destination!” Trouble was, I was still on the western half of the Island of Montreal. Basically, my GPS had decided it had done all it could to set me straight, and it gave up on me. Once I got to the east end, I had to find a parking lot and reprogram the restaurant’s address into the device. Since then, I’ve never really trusted my TomTom.

If I can give you one piece of advice, it’s this: always check the route proposed by your GPS before setting out. A GPS can usually be programmed, but often its default setting is for the shortest route. If the route chosen by the GPS seems to be pretty straight, beware if it asks you to continually exit the highway. The “shortest route” for a GPS is sometimes calculated based on service roads, so you could find yourself exiting and re-entering the highway over and over for no apparent reason. I speak from experience, as my old GPS (a Magellan) had me doing this during a trip to Niagara Falls.

The moral of this story? Never blindly accept what your GPS tells you to do, or you could end up bitterly regretting it.

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