Car Care: The benefits and risk of GPS
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Earlier this year, an American university, Georgia Tech, revealed results from a study that identified whether participants would trust technology or use their own brainpower during an emergency situation.
The volunteers had been led in to a building by navigational robots when a fire situation was simulated. Rather than finding a safe route out via visible emergency exit signs, the volunteers instead chose to follow the robots, even though they knew that they were malfunctioning, leading them further away from safety.
Which brings us to GPS — that handy device which, from time to time, results in similar news stories, albeit ones where motorists are being led down boat ramps in to water or off the beaten path and in to the middle of nowhere.
For most, we now find our way from A to B with a little help from the computerised voice in a box while the trusty map book sits in the glove compartment on standby. More often than not, new vehicles are loaded with GPS navigation which transfers the motorist’s location through to the infotainment systems displayed in the front of the cabin. If you don’t have a car, there aren’t many of us who don’t have access to a smartphone with a navigation app installed.
Being able to connect your phone navigation to your car is great because you can search a destination and it will log the address almost instantly. In-car systems have a slightly longer process where you need to punch all the address details into the system for it to be able to register exactly where you want to go.
Both systems require a bit of setting up to get the best out of them, but they also have several handy options. Generally, you’re able to select routes that avoid highways or tolls, and you can also choose your journey based on the shortest route by distance or time. It goes without saying to make sure you check that the GPS has registered the correct address or you could end up at place with the same name that’s in a different city or even country — although I’m sure the designated arrival time might start to signal some alarm bells before you start the journey.
Trust your instinct. One of the biggest dangers of GPS is that you could end up being led to a place that you’re unfamiliar with. Just because you’ve got sat nav, it doesn’t necessarily mean the latest software you’re relying on is as up-to-date with the latest road improvements or speed limit changes.
If you feel like you’re heading in the wrong direction, pull up and check the route before going any further. Keep your eyes on the road, and watch for signs to keep you on track because nobody should be driving on auto pilot.
And always remember to connect your phone to your vehicle or programme the navigation before setting out, so you’re not fiddling with the technology while you’re driving.