July 26, 2011
The first time I experienced GPS was in 2008, while I was living in Dallas. A friend of mine had one, and since I bummed a lot of rides with him, I got a chance to see if it lived up to the hype. 2 out of the first 3 times we tried to use the GPS, it failed to get us to where we needed to go. After that, the GPS stayed in the glove box; we didn't need it to get around the city.
There's a scene in The Office where Michael Scott drives a car into a lake because the GPS gives him bad directions. It's an exaggerated case of someone who's completely reliant on a technological navigation system, but it's not completely unrealistic. I recently heard of two friends, en route to DC, who wound up driving on a two-lane road up and down through the Appalachian Mountains, because the GPS device in the car told them to exit the interstate and take the more "direct" route.
There's really a big difference between using GPS as a backup, in case you get lost, versus using it as your primary navigation, doing anything and everything it tells you to do.
GPS devices don't just give occasional bad directions, they're also distracting. A person staring at a GPS screen or typing in an address is just as guilty of being distracted at a motorist texting, emailing or tweeting on a cell phone. Megabus blamed a crash that killed four people on a driver who was distracted by a GPS.
In my teenage years, I did as much driving as any suburban teen needs to do, but I never had a GPS. It wasn't long ago that you asked for directions when you were going out, and trusted that the person giving you directions had a strong grasp on the area. These days, I sometimes ask people if they need directions to something, they'll say, "no, I have a GPS."