Another Driver Chooses To Believe GPS Over The Reality Of A Cliff

from the the-machines-are-taking-over dept

Ah, yet another tale of a British driver turning on his GPS unit and turning off his brain: a guy in Yorkshire left his car teetering over the edge of a cliff after blindly following his GPS down a narrow, steep path. The GPS said it was a road, and the driver seems to have let that override his common sense, as plenty of people are wont to do. Drivers often like to blame the technology for taking them down some treacherous path, but it's not as if the device simply suggested a suboptimal route, or drove the car itself. The infallibility some people see in technology is troubling, since they seem to see things like GPS units as perfectly acceptable replacements for their brains.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Petréa Mitchell, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Trust

    The driver knows that sometimes the right road is poorly marked. And sometimes the quickest way to somewhere is the back road. And sometimes that's gravel for a bit. And sometimes... well you get the idea. The driver also knows that the navigation device is generally reliable.

    So the problem is to work out at what point to stop trusting your trusted expert and say no, this is really not the right road. This is more difficult in the UK than the US because the British road system has had a longer time to develop into a hideous writhing mess. The signifiers for "not really a road" are not as clear.

    This trust that people put in technology is a side effect of one of the basic psychological abilities that allows human civilization to exist in the first place.

     

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  2.  
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    Wierd Harold's former #5 fan, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 10:50am

    Two words...

    Darwin Awards

     

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  3.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:02am

    Mapquest

    I'm not comfortable just using the GPS. I prefer to have a copy of the Mapquest directions, and I know that those can be wrong (and have). I don't even think I would fully trust a map to tell me where I'm going. I guess the only way is to look ahead and stop before the road douse.

     

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  4.  
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    Lucretious, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA....

     

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  5.  
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    John Biggs, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:09am

    I have seen times I would do this

    First, I live in the states, but I also lived in north yorkshire for several years. The roads over there are much smaller so this could be more believable.

    Hoever I have been in situations following GPS or even directions from google that say to turn down a certain road. When I get there the road is barely a road at all, though it is marked. I decided not to turn down it. Maybe it was the right way one time, but it looked like it was doom now.

    Honestly I'd hold the county responsible for leaving a road headed for a cliff without a bunch of warning signs.

     

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  6.  
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    Matt Bennett, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:10am

    Have you noticed all these stories are from Britain?

     

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  7.  
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    PaulT (profile), Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:23am

    Re:

    Generally speaking, roads in the US and other large/relatively new countries are usually quite straight and most towns are designed around a lattice of cross-sectioning roads.

    This isn't the case in the UK, whose roads both inside and outside of urban areas usually follow ancient tracks. So, there's a lot more places to get lost, a lot more blind corners, maze-like one way systems, etc. In other words, it's the most likely place for both GPS systems to get confused and for English language press to report incidents...

    Of course, anyone who believes a GPS unit over and above what they see in front of their own eyes deserves whatever they get.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:27am

    there are PLENTY of stories from the states. i've read many stories about COMMERCIAL TRUCK DRIVERS turning onto train tracks because their GPS units 'told them to'. Idiots.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:30am

    "as plenty of people are wont to do."

    Does not compute. Error! Error!

     

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  10.  
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    Ima Fish, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:32am

    Re: Trust

    "So the problem is to work out at what point to stop trusting your trusted expert and say no"

    I have an easy solution. Look out your windshield. Problem solved.

    "The signifiers for "not really a road" are not as clear."

    How much more clear could a cliff be? I've read stories from the UK about people driving off of bridges that were out and situations where they drove into lakes. A large section of missing bridge is also not a clear signifier?! A lake is also not a clear signifier?!

    Once again, simply looking out that big window in the front of the car would have alleviated those problems. You see a cliff. You stop. You see a portion of the bridge missing You stop. You see a lake. You stop.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:44am

    Re:

    "Does not compute. Error! Error!" It parses and computes perfectly. Please report to maintenance for recalibration.

     

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  12.  
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    Horace Whitaker Powerdumperino, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:50am

    Technology is the blame for all of life's problems

    Sometimes when I'm just a little too tired to drive.,I turn on my GPS, set the cruise control, and hop in the backseat for a much needed nap.
    Damn, technology doesn't always work though. Last time I did that, I ended up in a pool in some yokel's backyard, with 3 kids stuck in my grill and windshield.
    Sure my blood alcohol level was 15 times over the legal limit, but I say the satellites and the interweb are to blame.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:50am

    Re: Trust

    I'd have a lot more sympathy for this particular way of looking at satnavs were it not for this line in the news article linked:

    "Mr Jones, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, only stopped when his BMW hit a fence above Gauxholme railway bridge on Sunday morning."

    Fences do not suddenly appear. Either this man was navigating his car solely by GPS in some sort of bizzare attempt to create a real life video game, or he chose to believe that the fence wasn't real because the satnav said it wasn't.

    I can understand how people can get lost following a GPS, turn down a dirt road, end up in a dead end or end up on some guys private property (a farm or whatever). I can see how you'd assume that the satnav knows a shortcut or something.

    But people turning down one-way streets, off a cliff, onto bridges that are under repair or don't even exist any more... those people are just stupid, it's nothing to do with trust or satnavs, they're just stupid people who seem to be following the satnav without actually looking out of their windows.

     

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  14.  
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    Omar, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    Re: I have seen times I would do this

    Thats because you are american.

     

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  15.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re:

    And then you drive in Pittsburgh and see where the GPSs get mixed up. Bridges everywhere, roads on top of roads, it's confusing as hell.

    This may be the reason I don't trust the GPS.

     

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  16.  
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    Whisk33, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:11pm

    Liabile

    The real question is who can we sue now?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    Maybe...

    they should have added an extra second to the yellow light...

     

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  18.  
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    Steve L, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    I bet they were using that pesky ATMOS system. Damn you Luke Rattigan, damn you.

     

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  19.  
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    R. Miles, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:38pm

    I wonder...

    ... if Queen's "Another one bites the dust" or Tom Petty's "Free Falling" was playing on the radio at the time.

    Sure would make a comical situation even more so.

    People are stupid.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Technology is the blame for all of life's problems

    The guy hit a fence. A fence! What more do you need to keep you from driving off a cliff?

     

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  21.  
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    Mark, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Mapquest

    Google Maps is where it's at. It amazes me to hear that people are still using sites like Mapquest, kind of like how I'm amazed that so many people still use Internet Explorer. Apparently some people don't mind using sub-par browsers and online maps.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:46pm

    I've noticed all these stories are from the UK. Sheep like to be led by the leash to wherever they are going....like the slaughterhouse. It's no surprise they would blindly follow the directions of a unit that may or may not have the right answers. No different than their blind faith in their government.

     

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  23.  
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    Ima Fish, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Re: I have seen times I would do this

    "Thats because you are american."

    And yet a brit nearly drove off of it!

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    This is the same kind of idiot that can't even manage to avoid being hit by a BIG GIANT, REALLY LOUD train!

     

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  25.  
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    Me, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re: Mapquest

    Are you on drugs? Google Maps is the worst mapping service in along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. It doesn't know dirt roads from real ones, sends people down roads that don't exist, and doesn't know its head from its asshole. Google Maps long ago had a falling from grace. Their mapping is sub-par these days compared to MapQuest or Yahoo Maps.

     

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  26.  
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    Petréa Mitchell, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: Trust

    "I have an easy solution. Look out your windshield. Problem solved."

    Looking at the photo at the bottom of the article, it appears the fence would have been out of the driver's line of sight until the last moment. If the ground was rising toward the edge of the cliff, it could easily have looked like the path was just disappearing over the top of an innocuous hill. (Of course it would help to see an actual photo of what it looked like from the driver's perspective.)

    If you and other drivers you know are in the habit of stopping every time you approach the crest of a hill or a blind curve, just in case a fence has appeared there, then I will accept my argument has been negated.

     

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  27.  
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    be_free, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 2:08pm

    It's just a fresh new generation of Darwin awards contestants. Technology obvisouly isn't for everyone, yet it is undoubtebly in our future. The ones that can't handle it, well, they will be "eliminated" by their own fallacy. Sad, but eveidently true....

     

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  28.  
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    TC, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 2:38pm

    Find this guy; push him off the nearest cliff.
    Survival of the non-idiots.

     

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  29.  
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    Weird Harold, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 3:09pm

    Maybe Google can hire him to drive one of their street view trucks.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 3:26pm

    Re:

    "Maybe Google can hire him to drive one of their street view trucks"

    And when the GPS tells him to run over WH, he will do it !

     

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  31.  
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    Mischa, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Mapquest

    Much of that can actually be blamed on the company they get their street map info from.

     

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  32.  
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    UBW, Mar 26th, 2009 @ 10:09pm

    Just want to say, awesome name for the story.

     

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  33.  
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    nasch, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Mapquest

    Not to sound like a douchebag, but how do you grow to adulthood without knowing how to spell "does"?

     

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  34.  
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    another mike, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 3:19pm

    physics vs gadgets

    We've got a spot here where if you follow your GPS, you'll end up off a twenty foot drop into a dry creek bed staring up at the road continuing on the other side. And it's not like a bridge washed out, there never was a bridge there. It's just road up to the edge of the run on both sides and no connection in the middle. It's not even a hundred feet across but they just never put in a bridge. But everyone's e-map says "go straight on" so there's been more than a few search and rescue roll-outs to drag tourists back up onto the road.

     

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  35.  
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    Crabby (profile), Apr 1st, 2009 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re: Trust

    Well, we do need to thin the herd somehow. I'm all in favor of people stupiding themselves to death.

     

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  36.  
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    Crabby (profile), Apr 1st, 2009 @ 1:04pm

    Re: physics vs gadgets

    Maybe this is a money-grubbing ploy by tow truck owners and those darn ambulance-chasing lawyers to get rich off some dumb moron's stupid mistake. Sue, sue, who can we sue?

     

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