Sunday, March 18, 2012

Survey says GPS Leads a Majority of Drivers Astray

NAV4_3D_US 1-01

A study released by Michelin/Harris Interactive shows that more drivers are led astray by GPS than not. Conducted in 2013, the study stated that 63% of U.S. drivers who have used GPS say the technology has led them astray at least once by pointing them in the wrong direction or by creating complex, confusing or incorrect routes. Of the 2,200 individuals surveyed, the average times that GPS took them off track was 4.4 times. According to the survey, nearly 7% of all U.S. drivers who use GPS have been misdirected more than ten times.

So how do you avoid getting lost using GPS? And why does it happen? Great questions. Let’s take a look.

Getting Lost with GPS

Garmin BMW Motorad V motorcycle navigator

Garmin BMW Motorad V motorcycle navigator

It may seem odd that a device directed by satellites and advanced technology can cause so much more trouble than a paper map, but there is a saying: Technology is only as infallible as the people who make it. And, in this case the people who use it. Here are the top reasons why your GPS got you lost:

  • The GPS map is out of date – You do know you have to update those periodically, right? Road maps can change as much as 40% each year with construction zones, detours, new roads and closed roads, so make sure your device is up to date
  • The map is just plain wrong– So, your map is up to date, but you still can’t find what you’re looking for? It’s probably an error on the map, which does happen from time to time. If you encounter this, this site has instructions and links for how to report it. Be patient, though, because your corrections will have to be checked for accuracy before they update the maps.
  • No signal – your GPS has to have a clear view of the sky in order to access the satellites that feed it information. If there is a dense canopy or a jungle of buildings, the signal can get lost or lag and direct you completely off track, resulting in a frustrating figure-eight driving as you try and figure out where you’re supposed to make a left turn.

Of course, these aren’t the only reasons your GPS randomly told you to drive through a lake–these are just the most common. It’s possible that there is a hardware problem with your GPS device making connecting to the satellites impossible, or maybe you simply read it wrong. There are any number of reasons why you got lost. Now, how do you avoid that?

How to Stay on Track

I-405-map_thumb.jpgWhile it’s important to make sure you update your GPS and have spare batteries, technology is always going to be fallible. The best thing we can suggest is to stay on track is to keep a paper map in your car or for long distances. It may seem archaic, but the Michelin survey showed that nearly 46% of drivers still have paper maps or atlases in their cars–so you won’t be alone. Paper maps don’t require signals and they aren’t going to route you in a giant loop for no apparent reason. They also aren’t going to break or run out of juice. GPS technology is wonderful, but nothing is perfect. If you want to avoid being lost, then throw a map in your glove box before you take off and trust your instincts.




  1. Paper maps are far more likely to be out of date than GPS maps. And their detail is harder to read (eg one way streets, usable exits/entrances). Heck just finding where you are on one is difficult enough (count how many places have Peachtree in their name in Atlanta as an example). Paper maps are only effective when you have a second person in the car navigating using them (and that person doesn’t get car sick etc).

    Did the survey bother asking “has your GPS found better routes than you used to take?” That has been the case several times for me based on routes I used to use before getting a GPS. The other big benefit is the freedom to explore – you can drive wherever you damn well please and the GPS will keep trying to get you back to where you were going. Having this freedom is wonderful.

    Sure the map can sometimes be wrong, but GPS is a net huge positive gain.

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