Saturday, January 02, 2010

Remember, your GPS is not infallible

I love GPS technology. Unlike the rest of my family, I have NO sense of direction and a mental block against remembering street names. So my Garmin Nuvi 780 (and the Navigon app on my iPhone) have saved me from any number of near-disasters trying to get from point A to point B. But I am almost an Information Technology professional, and therefore know any system is only as reliable as the worst programmer/engineer/tester working on it. So, I always remember to question the device and not assume it has more common sense than I do.

In Oregon, GPS systems can direct drivers to thousands of miles of Forest Service logging roads that lace the state's mountain ranges. In the winter, they are often plugged with snow.
On Christmas Day, a Nevada couple took one such road in Evinger's County and spent three days stuck. They were rescued when a break in atmospheric conditions allowed them to signal their coordinates to 911.
Three Portlanders and their small dog got into trouble Monday when their vehicle slid off a forest road as they were using GPS directions to a hot springs in the southern Willamette Valley. Lane County officials said the three and the dog were exhausted and mildly hypothermic after walking 17 miles without survival gear to get into cell phone range and call 911.
Griffin's family was rescued when friends and relatives used a GPS like Griffin's and duplicated the route they assumed the family had plotted. That led them straight to the family. The three had been stuck about 24 hours.
Remember, whenever possible, double-check the GPS route against the map, and be especially aware that the GPS has no idea about the capabilities of - or lack thereof - your particular vehicle.

1 comment:

shadowmom1 said...

When going someplace with which I am unfamiliar, I usually print out MapQuest (or other) directions and get familiar with them first, then use my GPS. I also look at where the GPS is saying to turn or exit. Sometimes it makes more common sense to stay on a larger road than to take the "shorter" route the GPS selects. It can "recalculate" from your common sense spot.
The GPS often tells you to continue on a road that is not completely a through street. You just have to use your common sense.