January 31, 2008

Technology's Unintended Consequences

Nick Carr:

As GPS transceivers become common accessories in cars, the benefits have been manifold. Millions of us have been relieved of the nuisance of getting lost or, even worse, the shame of having to ask a passerby for directions.

But, as with all popular technologies, those dashboard maps are having some unintended consequences. In many cases, the shortest route between two points turns out to run through once-quiet neighborhoods and formerly out-of-the-way hamlets.

Scores of villages have been overrun by cars and lorries whose drivers robotically follow the instructions dispensed by their satellite navigation systems. The International Herald Tribune reports that the parish council of Barrow Gurney has even requested, fruitlessly, that the town be erased from the maps used by the makers of navigation devices.

A research group in the Netherlands last month issued a study documenting the phenomenon and the resulting risk of accidents. It went so far as to say that GPS systems can turn drivers into “kid killers.”

Carr makes an excellent point. One has to add some common sense to navigation systems. I used a TomTom in Europe last year. I found it very helpful - mostly, however, when we decided to wander around. The navigation system would then provide a route back to the hotel (which I had added as a predefined point prior to our departure).

Posted by jez at January 31, 2008 8:46 AM | Subscribe to this site via RSS:
Posted to Culture | Technology | Transportation