When In Doubt, Blame It On Technology

from the it-wasn't-my-fault dept

There seems to be a growing trend in the UK of people suspending their common sense when they get in a car and turn on GPS navigation units. There are people driving off cliffs and through flooded roads and taking detours that span half of England, apparently at the behest of their navigation units. Things got so bad in one place that authorities even had to put up "ignore your sat nav" signs. Now, a woman's car got hit by a train, and for some reason, she's blaming a GPS navigation unit. She says the device led her "right into the path of a speeding train": she was driving to her boyfriend's house, using the GPS for directions, when she came up to a metal gate with a red circle on it, marked with a "little sign saying, if the light is green, open the gates and drive through." She doesn't say whether or not the light was green, just that she opened the gate, drove through, got out to shut the gate and heard a train coming, then she realized she was standing on a train crossing. She got out of the way, but the train hit her car and carried it for half a mile. She says she "can't completely blame" the GPS unit -- but it's not clear why the GPS is to blame at all. First, you'd imagine that one would be cognizant enough of their surroundings to realize when they were at a railroad crossing. Second, if it wasn't obvious enough, isn't the problem really inadequate signage or a lack of other safety equipment? Of course, it's easier to put the blame on the GPS, since it can only answer back by saying, "Left turn in 400 yards," rather than own up to your own fault.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    IronChef, May 11th, 2007 @ 8:23pm

    "The SatNav device drives my car... Not me"

    I ran into this once as well. The problem is that the source for the GeoData polygons(in the US- TIGER) is a Census function and only generated once every few years..

    SatNav is really just an automated map, and like any good map, should be replaced whenever a new update comes out...

    But the driver still is ultimately in control of the car. (duh) O

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2007 @ 8:56pm

    ...but your Honor, the GPS told me to turn right, it didn't say the old lady was going to be crossing the street!

    the court finds these people, ignorant as charged. enough said.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2007 @ 8:57pm

    At some point someone is going to sue google for giving directions to "Swim across the Atlantic" when they want directions from the US to Europe.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2007 @ 9:19pm

    In the UK, I imagine it would say "Left turn in 400 meters", not "yards." ;)

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2007 @ 9:24pm

    Re:

    They do actually tell you to swim it. That's hilarious!

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2007 @ 10:25pm

    Anyone who puts 100% faith in technology is just plain stupid or ignorant, and is asking asking for trouble. Its a great enabler, but only as smart as the programmer...

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 12th, 2007 @ 12:59am

    You can put faith in technology, you just have to use common sense.

    oh and i laughed @ the people driving off cliffs

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 12th, 2007 @ 2:04am

    Re: Metres and Yards.

    In Britain they often have an option for either metres or yards, since we use both. However, all road signs are still in yards and miles. In mainland europe I would expect them to use metres and kilometres since this is what the road signs are in.

     

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  9.  
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    |333173|3|_||3, May 12th, 2007 @ 2:42am

    Re: Re: Metres and Yards

    Road signs are required constitutionally to be marked in yards and miles. THis is one of the few exceptions to the EU-wide use of the metric system, ont of hte others beig the sale of beer in the UK by Imperial pint, which is required by the Magna Carta.

    Anyone who cannot identify a railway line as such sould not be driving a car. The marking of a red spot on the gate is used as a warning, and the warning light, if present, should have been more than sufficent warning. If it was an unsingalled crossing, there was almost certainly a telephone by the gate, which she could have used to check for approaching trains (I am fairly sure that in the absence of a manually-controlled crossing, there has to be a telephone to contact the responsible signal box. This should be present on all public railway crossings, from AHB (automaic half barrier) crossings to ungated rural lanes. Only private occupation crossings, which are provided for landowners to have access accross the line, would not need one, but sicne at occupation crossings the gate opens away from the line and is on a private driveway or farm track, she should not have been on it.

    Well, if you're stupid enough to ask for directions between two places not linked by land, if there is no ferry, what can it do?

     

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  10.  
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    Bobshaker, May 12th, 2007 @ 2:58am

    Are people really so ridiculously stupid? Technology is a convenience. It is to support your intelligence and common sense not replace your brain.

     

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  11.  
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    Kitobor, May 12th, 2007 @ 3:02am

    Maps

    Do people blame the map when they take a wrong turn? No.

    Do they blame the computer when their data gets deleted? Yes.

    This is just a case of people blaming elec-trickery and assuming that a GPS system is somehow different to a map.
    It is not infallible because it is a machine.

    If the GPS tells you to turn left you still check that it is safe to turn, that the road actually exists, that a fallen tree has not blocked your path etc....

    Stupid humans.

     

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  12.  
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    Bobshaker, May 12th, 2007 @ 3:08am

    People really don't drive cliffs do they? I hope for the sake of this planet that there aren't people who have done that. Anonymous, I checked Google Maps and it DOES tell you to swim across the Atlantic. I couldn't stop laughing for a whole minute. I got this picture of Forrest Gump running up to the Ocean, jumping in and swimming to Europe in my head.

     

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  13.  
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    Lonny Paul (profile), May 12th, 2007 @ 3:47am

    Technology Dependence Still Requires Common Sense

    I am not surprised whatsoever that this fatalities are happening in the UK -- probably the world over -- as people rely more on GPS devices. People I know use them in areas where they are well aware where they are going - why?

    Technology is an aid. Do not make it a crutch.

    (But my Treo didn't tell me it was time...)

     

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  14.  
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    Old Guy, May 12th, 2007 @ 4:55am

    I still can't fold my GPS system back up correctly...

     

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  15.  
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    JB, May 12th, 2007 @ 5:33am

    Re: Bobshaker

    See, I actually hope they DO drive off the cliffs for the sake of the planet. :P In fact, it should be part of a driver's exam. Set them up in a car with GPS that instructs the driver to drive off a cliff and see if they do it. It's like cleaning leaves out of the gene pool.

     

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  16.  
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    Fred Flint, May 12th, 2007 @ 5:34am

    Survival of the Unfit?

    If that lady had actually stayed in the car until the train hit it - and assuming she hadn't had children yet - it would be a perfect example of modern evolution in action.

     

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  17.  
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    darkdancer, May 12th, 2007 @ 5:46am

    wish we had it then

    in the early nineties we used to drive around the m25 waiting for our (then very boxy) mobiles to ring, letting us know when and where the rave was to be held. now it's easy. open air festival by gps.

     

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  18.  
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    Hoeppner, May 12th, 2007 @ 7:39am

    a suspension of her license in the only logical step.

     

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  19.  
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    darkdancer, May 12th, 2007 @ 8:39am

    recently in the uk

    a woman drove her brand new merc into a river. This was widely reported in the national newspapers as a SatNav fault. But the thing is... she drove down a single lane dirt farm track that was clearly sign posted as a No Through Road. What was going thru her head? 'This road's a bit narrow'? 'These brambles are taking all the paint off'? ' Oh f**k it's a river'? !!!

     

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  20.  
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    Alan, May 12th, 2007 @ 9:26am

    Re: Metres??? In the UK???

    Not only do we not measure in metres, we negotiaited to keep our pounds and ounces, not to mention the pound Sterling!!!

    Please don't make the mistake of thinking of us as Europeans......

     

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  21.  
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    Drukas, May 12th, 2007 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: Bobshaker

    I find that idea both hilarious and quite appealing.

     

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  22.  
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    casey, May 12th, 2007 @ 1:52pm

    ...... logically

    given this level of stupidity... I think you are given them way too much credit assuming that they were using the GPS correctly in the first place

     

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  23.  
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    heavyw8t, May 12th, 2007 @ 2:17pm

    I am still trying to figure out why she needed GS to go to her boyfriend's house, a place I assume she had been many times before.... I don't need GPS to get to work.....

     

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  24.  
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    jack, May 12th, 2007 @ 5:16pm

    "she's blaming a GPS navigation unit" click this link and you will see that the once vaunted BBC is clearly in the mainstream of today's journalism.

     

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  25.  
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    Justine, May 12th, 2007 @ 5:51pm

    Printed Data Can Be Wrong Too

    We've had problems in California with printed maps, specifically freeway overpasses and bridges with heights that were incorrectly measured or recorded. Oops. I remember in one instance the trucker involved proved that he'd relied on state-funded road data, and it wasn't his fault that the truck got stuck under an overpass that hadn't been measured right in the first place.

     

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  26.  
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    Darkdancer, May 12th, 2007 @ 6:48pm

    Urban Myth

    I met a bloke in a pub, whos mate new someone who had a job driving around europe mapping all the tiny back roads that don't show up on ordance survey maps in order to make satnav systems more accurate.

     

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  27.  
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    Gollux, May 12th, 2007 @ 9:50pm

    Loss of intelligence, technology induced?

    We recently had a rash of stupidity here. Some trucking concern decided that Redwood Highway through Smith River Canyon was unable to handle their 53' trailers and their dispatchers started sending them up through Bear Camp Road, a one lane US Forest Service/BLM, not necessarily well paved road in adverse terrain with greater than 6% grades and a climb to over 4500 ft elevation to reach Highway 101. And the curves are even more horrific than the one truck buster curve in Smith River Canyon. There has been a total loss of any thinking abilities in the general human population. A good quantity of bleach needs to be dumped into the gene pool soon or we'll all die of stupidity soon.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 12th, 2007 @ 9:59pm

    Re: "The SatNav device drives my car... Not me"

    There are commercial vendors like NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas that have better, independent data and update their data quarterly. Direct use of TIGER data is quite rare these days.

     

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  29.  
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    by the tail, May 12th, 2007 @ 10:34pm

    Re: Loss of intelligence, technology induced?

    There has been a rash trucking errors on US129 between TN and NC... better known as the tail of the dragon. 318 curves in 11 miles, plus a lot of up and downs to high side to boot.

    Nav software been routing trucks over it since it is a "highway", and there are NOT many good east-west roads in area.

    http://www.tailofthedragon.com/

     

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  30.  
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    Jon, May 12th, 2007 @ 10:49pm

    I found this picture of the level crossing in question here. How did she pass her driving test and not realise this was a level crossing?

     

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  31.  
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    Norm, May 12th, 2007 @ 11:07pm

    This makes me think of the movie Idiocracy (2006).

     

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  32.  
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    MrWizard, May 12th, 2007 @ 11:12pm

    Some of these stories...

    are just begging to be included in the next Darwin Awards.

     

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  33.  
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    Campigenus, May 12th, 2007 @ 11:14pm

    Re: Urban Myth

    Actually, I did that in Japan. Took thousands and thousands of pictures too.

     

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  34.  
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    blar, May 13th, 2007 @ 12:17am

    Re: wish we had it then

    YES!

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2007 @ 12:21am

    Re:

    Surprisingly, in the UK, we are told to turn left in 400 yards, not metres. Our satnavs also say "Bloody hell you tosspot, you missed a turning!"

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2007 @ 1:57am

    Re:

    No, we use miles and yards.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2007 @ 2:48am

    Re:

    I amagine you're a tard, thanks for playing.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2007 @ 2:59am

    Re: Re:

    No results for "amagine". Please try again.

     

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  39.  
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    paul, May 13th, 2007 @ 3:20am

    Lets not gang up on sat navs

    I think it ought to be remembered how many womans lives have been saved by having sat navs.

    I say this as the numbers of arguments that have been avoided in the car by the sat nav doing the navigation is quite considerable compared to when the wife tried to navigate us up a river......

    (asbestos suit now on)

     

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  40.  
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    Simon Farnsworth, May 13th, 2007 @ 4:27am

    There's a photo of the crossing available

    For people wondering whether it's likely to be a badly signposted crossing, this is a picture of the crossing, taken from the direction she approached from. You will notice that there's even a sign telling you how to operate the crossing, just in case you've forgotten what you were taught when you learnt to drive.

     

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  41.  
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    Matthew, May 13th, 2007 @ 5:40am

    Re: There's a photo of the crossing available

    It's not even a light, but a manual (cardboard?) sign. I suppose it's metal, but how often do those change? If there are no trains scheduled all day they walk out and open the gates?

     

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  42.  
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    Matthew, May 13th, 2007 @ 5:47am

    Too many signs

    Ok, now I see the green traffic light thing. That's a lot of stuff to read on a lot of different signs. However, I suppose you are taught how to deal with them when the time comes.

    I suppose I'm spoiled by our automatic gates for train crossing here in USA, but that doesn't seem like a real good system.

     

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  43.  
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    Matthew, May 13th, 2007 @ 5:48am

    Re: Too many signs

    Which isn't in any way the GPS system's fault.

    (I blame my keyboard for pressing ENTER too early) ;)

     

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  44.  
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    Wanda, May 13th, 2007 @ 7:20am

    GPS signs

    The thing that I dont understand is, if people are following everything the GPS is telling them. So much so that they are not aware of their surroundings. Then why put up a ignor your gps sign? i mean they arent reading anything else except paying attention to their gps

     

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  45.  
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    Nick Fitzsimons, May 13th, 2007 @ 8:11am

    Not a typical crossing

    @Matthew: this is not a typical UK level crossing. The vast majority are automated; this is in the middle of nowhere, on a road that probably only ever gets used by a farmer checking on his sheep, and a handful of other local people.

     

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  46.  
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    Brandon Watts, May 13th, 2007 @ 8:17am

    What a world...

    This is definitely a trend that we're seeing a lot more lately. Some people think that having the latest technology prevents them from having to actually think, but far from being a replacement for our brains, technology is at best just a supplement to our thinking ability.

    Brandon Watts
    Criteo Evangelist

     

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  47.  
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    NA, May 13th, 2007 @ 8:26am

    Idiots

    How the heck was a GPS unit supposed to know anything about a train? GPS can only help you navigate, the driver is still responsible for *driving*.

    Also, if you have to cross rail tracks, never stop *ON* the tracks for any reason. If you cant confirm that the way on the other side isnt completely clear for you to drive fully across and clear of the tracks, dont start onto them in the first place.

    In this case, if there were gates on both sides, a good idea would have been to open *both* gates, drive the car fully across (keeping an eye and ear aware of any trains), then go back and close both. Having mechanical gates that average members of the community are supposed to get out and open to cross rail tracks seems a bit of an odd situation to begin with - if it was a public crossing, it should have had automatic gates, of it wasnt, they should have been locked to prevent them being opened except by authorized persons.

     

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  48.  
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    steve, May 13th, 2007 @ 9:30am

    This is nothing new.

    "Sorry, the systems really slow today"

    'nuf said.

     

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  49.  
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    Steve, May 13th, 2007 @ 9:37am

    Re:

    From the BBC article:

    Paula Ceely, was driving her Renault Clio from Redditch, Worcestershire, to see her boyfriend at his parents' home in Carmarthenshire for the first time.

    She wasn't going to her boyfriend's home, she was going to meet his parents.

     

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  50.  
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    G, May 13th, 2007 @ 11:14am

    At what point will this tech be rreliable?

    Sure it's easy to blame the driver. But, how many of you will end up in an unknown city, at night, in the rain and REALLY need a reliable source of directions. Or, as many small cities are now doing - emergencies response is directed by GPS. Recently a police officer pulled up next to me in my neighborhood and said they had an emergency Onstar call to where I was standing, at a street I had never heard of. Who is responsible? At what point is a manufacturer responsible for their products? When a plane falls out of the sky due to faulty directions? I think this will be an area of a lot of lawsuits in the future.

     

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  51.  
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    Pap, May 13th, 2007 @ 1:47pm

    The SatNav worked to spec...

    "So I opened the gate, drove forward, closed the gate behind me and then went to go and open the gate in front of me."

    She opened the gates one at a time, driving the car onto the track after opening the first gate. At no point did the SatNav instruct her to do that.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2007 @ 4:49pm

    Re:

    In the UK they use yards!!!

     

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  53.  
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    John Brace, May 13th, 2007 @ 10:02pm

    Satellite Navigation

    As a cyclist, I have to rely on maps or memorise the route before I set out.

    Perhaps if people still practised such elementary skills or the stopping to ask for directions, they'd also be better at driving.

    I realise we always want to find shorter/quicker routes to places, but it's easier doing that on a map! There are signs on roads too. *sighs*

    My advice to this woman is get a bike - however there have been a number of accidents like this (vehicles at level crossings). Most of these types of level crossing (where the barrier doesn't lock down when a train is coming) are in the type of rural location this happened in.

    She had a narrow (and incredibly lucky) escape.

     

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  54.  
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    Lisa Howarth, May 14th, 2007 @ 12:43am

    Satellite Navigation!!???

    Did this person have working EYES? Am I the only one here that thinks that this is simply natural selection in progress?
    LH

     

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  55.  
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    the amazing me, May 14th, 2007 @ 4:22am

    Re: Satellite Navigation

    That's funny because I know of GPS systems that are suitable for a bike.

    I assume you meant because I'm not an idiot I am able to read a map...

    Let's face it there is unfortunately no cure for idiocy. I suspect this may have been the first time she'd come across such a crossing type and was incapable of thinking for herself - because you're not allowed to now as a child (too many chances of someone getting sued).

    I think I'll stick to maps and using my eyes thanks.

     

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  56.  
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    |333173|3|_||3, May 14th, 2007 @ 5:10am

    Few points

    THis was a public crossing, but on such a minor road that it was hardly worth fitting Automatic barriers to the crosing. I am sure most locals, who actually have to use the crossing, would far rather have a manual gated crossing than no crossing a t all, because it seems unlikely that anyone would pay for a track circuit controlled set of barriers. On such a small road, half barriers could not befitted, because they are required to allow a trapped driver to escape in ther car, and so a manually controlled, video supervsed crossing would need to be used. The cost for such a crossing would be prohibitave, and so if ther were to be a fuss made and these crossings banned, tehy would simply be fenced off, not upgraded.

    These crossings are common becuase of the number of minor roads and footpaths which are legally required to be kept open, and the number of minor railway lines which have survived into the present day (too few, but there are some), for which it would be uneconomical to provide automatic crossings.

    I think we have now firmly established that he crossing was well signed, and that the UK uses yards, not metres. There is no more need to post these points.

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2007 @ 6:23am

    Re: Re: Bobshaker



    I love that image!

    Stupidity has always been a capital crime, enforced by nature without appeals.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2007 @ 6:32am

    Re:

    As smart as the programmer? Guess programmers do that kind of stuff all the time then.

     

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  59.  
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    Dan Callahan, May 14th, 2007 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re:

    I love the fact that it calculated the most efficient route for me so I'd (I assume) have to swim the shortest distance. Very thoughtful of them, really.

     

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  60.  
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    anonymous coward, May 14th, 2007 @ 9:45am

    what do you expect from a country that is so stupid they drive on the wrong side of the road?

     

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  61.  
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    UDrive, May 14th, 2007 @ 9:51am

    Re: "The SatNav device drives my car... Not me"

    In the US the data is NOT TIGER data from the Census Bureau. The TIGER data is completely unsuited for SatNAv as it is not positionally accurate nor does it contain turn restrictions information. It is supplied by NAVTEQ or Tele Atlas who supply the maps for the European SatNav applications as well.

     

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  62.  
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    Dar, May 14th, 2007 @ 10:28am

    Did people have this many problems with Cruise Control too when it came out?

     

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  63.  
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    William, May 14th, 2007 @ 2:01pm

    Insurance for idiocy?

    I presume we all have to pay for this idiocy via increased car insurance premiums? This wasn't an accident - it was a criminally negligent failure to read, act on road signs and drive responsibly.

     

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  64.  
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    Tinker, Jan 5th, 2008 @ 6:50am

    Missed a Darwin Award by this much.....

    She was probably talking on her cell phone at the time while trying to read the label on her McDonald's coffee to see if it was HOT.

     

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  65.  
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    Charley, Jan 7th, 2008 @ 7:36am

    Anyone this stupid really should not be allowed to drive.

     

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