Couple Taken 400 Miles Off Course By Trusting Their GPS

from the at-some-point,-don't-you-begin-to-question... dept

It really is amazing to see some of the stories about people shutting off their brains (and often their own eyes) in order to believe everything that their GPS device tells them. The latest example involves some Swedish tourists in Italy, who wanted to go to Capri, but mistyped it into the device as Carpi, an industrial town in Northern Italy, 400 miles away from the beautiful isle of Capri. Apparently, it didn't occur to them as they drove (and drove and drove) that perhaps things weren't right. According to tourist officials, after being informed, the couple got back in the car, and turned around to head in the right direction.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 4:05pm

    No indication of where they started from or how long the trip would have been in the right direction?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 4:40pm

    That's pretty crazy, considering that every turn and exit in Italy (at least the parts that I've been to) has a sign that tells you pretty much every town that can be reached by going that way.

     

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  3.  
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    scote, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 4:40pm

    Frankly, this is a stupid post. The tourists got the name wrong. That could happen with a map, too. Is it as likely? Perhaps not, but this isn't a case of a GPS malfunctioning but tourists unfamiliar with the area getting the name of a destination.

     

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  4.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jul 29th, 2009 @ 4:41pm

    This sounds like my roommate

    He started about a mile south of the park way, went looking for a game shop with the GPS about another mile south. He ended up 40 miles south attempting to get back to the parkway after not finding the game shop. I've heard of a bad sense of direction but holy crap.

    As AC above pointed out, if they were 400mi away from Capri and also 400mi away from Carpi, I could understand. If they were 4mi away then they should have known something was wrong after driving for 30min.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 4:59pm

    Re:

    I have to agree. This article isn't really so much about these people "shutting off their brain in order to believe everything that their GPS device tells them" but rather about the GPS telling them exactly what they told it to tell them; that is, how to get to Carpi.

    In a related story, a kid was forced to eat a candy bar he didn't favor, when he shut off his brain and just allowed the vending machine to give him the candy bar corresponding to the (incorrect) button he pushed.

    Scandal.

     

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  6.  
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    The Navigator, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 5:06pm

    Misleading headline

    It should have read.

    Sausage fingered Couple Taken 400 miles off course by typing the wrong destination into their GPS, then not bothering to read the road signs.

    This is about stupidity NOT about the technology.

    Almost like when the stupid Stupid STUPID guy from the bay area lost his life and risked his family's life trying to cross the Oregon Cascades in a car on a back road in the dead of winter. Only because the GPS said it was shorter. He risked the lives of the searchers, cost the Counties, State and feds thousands of dollars and then the family claimed the state was at fault for not blocking the road.

    This isn't about technology, it is about stupid people not knowing how to read a map, follow a compass, or ask a GPS to take them to the right town.

    Your headline is disappointing sensationalism Mike.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 5:28pm

    The GPS was simply attempting to reintroduce natural selection into the human species, nothing to see here.

     

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  8.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 29th, 2009 @ 5:42pm

    Re:

    but this isn't a case of a GPS malfunctioning but tourists unfamiliar with the area getting the name of a destination.

    Um. I never said it was about the GPS malfunctioning.

     

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  9.  
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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Jul 29th, 2009 @ 5:53pm

    Alternately...

    ...the navigator was dyslexic and it had nothing to do with using a GPS - perhaps they *did* read the road signs too...?

     

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  10.  
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    Fsm, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

    Woww...

    Amazing how many people commenting on this article don't have the reading comprehension to understand that Mike isn't bashing the technology at all for telling them the wrong(right) way to go.

    And the "misleading" headline says exactly what happened. They were taken 400 miles off course for trusting their GPS, when they should have had an iota of awareness about where the hell they were going.

    Authors of posts 3, 5, and 6 are morons.

     

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  11.  
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    Next thing you know, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:06pm

    It will be patented

    It looks like you want to go to Carpi, did you mean Capri ?

     

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    MArk, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:07pm

    This is about people turning off their brain and trusting the the GPS blindly.

    Yes, they fat fingered the name. No, it doesn't matter where they started.

    If read anything other than this post (or knew the geography of italy) you would have known that Capri is in the south, Carpi is in the north. The southernmost point in Italy would not have you driving 4 hours to get to Capri. If you can't figure out that you are supposed to be going someplace in the south of the country and you have been traveling north for over a few hours, you are brain dead, and just trusting the SUV.

    The other clue that should have tipped them off. Capri is an Island, miles away from mainland. Carpi is not an island, and completely land locked. If you dont realize you havent goen over water, you are a moron.

    Glad they took it well.

     

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  13.  
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    Mark, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:10pm

    "If you can't figure out that you are supposed to be going someplace in the south of the country and you have been traveling north for over a few hours, you are brain dead, and just trusting the SUV."

    That should read GPS and not SUV. Dont know where that came from.

     

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  14.  
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    Scote, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:10pm

    " Mike Masnick (profile)

    but this isn't a case of a GPS malfunctioning but tourists unfamiliar with the area getting the name of a destination.

    Um. I never said it was about the GPS malfunctioning."

    No mike, you didn't say that nor did I say you did, instead you blamed the tourists for errant "trusting" their GPS, as if some error on the part of the GPS led them astray rather than an error on the part of the tourists.

    Would you run a post about people who followed a map to the wrong city by getting the name wrong, saying "Couple Taken 400 Miles Off Course By Trusting Their Map"? I think not. It wasn't the GPS they were trusting so much as their data entry. It took them where they told it to, just like a map would, or a Google Maps print out. The GPS is essentially irrelevant to this story.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:13pm

    Re: Re:

    Nope, it's just a non-story.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:17pm

    Re:

    No mike, you didn't say that nor did I say you did, instead you blamed the tourists for errant "trusting" their GPS, as if some error on the part of the GPS led them astray rather than an error on the part of the tourists.

    No. I clearly stated in the post that they were at fault for mistyping the name into the GPS. But, that said, they THEN did trust the GPS for a great distance despite plenty of evidence they were heading the wrong way. They did, in fact, trust the GPS. Exactly what the story said.

    You keep saying I said there was an error on the GPS. I did not. I said the people trusted the GPS after they input the wrong city. Which is exactly what happened.

     

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  17.  
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    Overcast (profile), Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:20pm

    No - they shut off their brain alright - did anyone even look on a map to see the dramatic difference between those two points?

    The GPS did just it was supposed to do - so the error was a user error.

    I travel regionally - and while I'm not opposed to a GPS, I just don't feel compelled to get one. The cool thing is; when I travel to many of these places; I don't need a thing to get there now since I know the route all by myself :)

    If I was using a GPS, I'm not sure I would put in the effort to remember it.

     

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  18.  
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    B, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:23pm

    A Little Misleading...

    The title is slightly misleading. The title leads the reader to believe that a GPS can point you 400 miles off course, and you should be weary of this. However, the GPS was correct.

    It would be like telling people not to trust a calculator because if you punch in "9 + 3" it will give you 12 when you actually meant to type "6 + 3".

     

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  19.  
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    Ryan, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:54pm

    Brain failure

    The hardware and software of the GPS worked just fine. It was the wetware of the driver that failed.

     

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  20.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Jul 29th, 2009 @ 6:54pm

    Technology and people: Two things which don't go well together.

    I have to agree with the "turning off the brain" part of the story. People who use technology seem to drop 50 points, per second, of common sense.

    The latest: our wonderful government scrambling to ban texting while driving due to a recent report that it's 23% more likely to cause accidents.

    *sigh*

    Personally, banning texting abilities from a cell PHONE would be a better law to pass.

     

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  21.  
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    Moriarity, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 7:06pm

    Carpi diem!

     

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  22.  
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    Sneeje (profile), Jul 29th, 2009 @ 7:07pm

    Re:

    Still missing the point. The point is about how people tend to shut off their brains (common sense) and trust technology. This is actually a documented behavior--the more complex a system, the more trusting individuals are with the output, especially if it is in common use.

    A better analogy than the ones being given in many of the comments here would be: Yesterday the bridge wasn't out and I drove over it. Today, I ask my friend if the bridge is out and he says "no". While I'm driving, I see a sign saying the bridge is out and it looks like part of it is missing, but I'm going to keep driving because I trust my friend. Friend = GPS; Friend's knowledge = Fat-finger mistake.

     

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  23.  
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    scote, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 7:09pm

    "by icon Mike Masnick (profile)

    You keep saying I said there was an error on the GPS. I did not. I said the people trusted the GPS after they input the wrong city. Which is exactly what happened."

    Really? Quote where I said you actually said that even once, let alone twice. If your factual reporting of the story is as flawed as your reporting on my easily verifiable posts is then I have even less faith in the OP.

    "You keep saying I said"--You keep using that [phrase]. I do not think it means what you think it means. ...

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Technology and people: Two things which don't go well together.

    Except here's the thing - the GPS users might have made the same mistake looking at a map (look up in the index where Carpi is, make a route). They obviously didn't know a think about their destination (like it is an island) so there isn't much to say here. GPS, map, directions from a stranger - if they asked for Carpi, they would have ended up there.

    It's too easy to blame technology, but in the end it's the stupid users, not the stupid device.

     

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  25.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 29th, 2009 @ 7:43pm

    Re:

    Really? Quote where I said you actually said that even once, let alone twice.

    In your first comment, after calling this post "stupid" you said: "this isn't a case of a GPS malfunctioning but tourists unfamiliar with the area getting the name of a destination."

    I don't see how one can read that other than you are saying we claimed that the GPS malfunctioned. We did not.

    In your second comment, you wrote: "as if some error on the part of the GPS led them astray rather than an error on the part of the tourists."

    Again, any clear reading of this sentence suggests you believe I said that there was an "error on the part of the GPS."

    I did neither. I clearly stated that it was the tourists who were at fault, and the problem was that they put too much trust in what the device was telling them to do.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 8:34pm

    Re: Re:

    IN a way you do make it sound like an error of the GPS for not being smart enough to read people's minds.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 10:07pm

    It is all in the headline, the body is ok.

    The BBC headline in the linked article is:
    Swedes miss Capri after GPS gaffe

    Mike's headline is:
    Couple Taken 400 Miles Off Course By Trusting Their GPS

    I think the BBC headline is more to the point.
    'By Trusting Their GPS' reads to me that they trusted their GPS but it let them down.

    True it never says that the GPS malfunctioned or was inaccurate in Mike's write-up and he labels it as misuses of technology.

    Those of us who follow Mike's informative and thought provoking posts expect controversy, humor and dissent. It seems many of us have a problem with the headline. It appears to be written to sensationalize the article not describe it. Don't expect that from Mike.

    Perhaps there is something telling in that a large number of the comments are about the presentation of the post and not on core of the issue; what I believe the intent of the article was.

     

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  28.  
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    Louis, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 11:09pm

    GPS Data

    Something similar happened to my brother-in-law when he was visiting my parents in another province. He wanted to go to a specific store but didn't listen to my mom's instructions on how to get there. He inputed the store name into his GPS and it told him that there was a store of that chain 45 miles away so he took to the highway and he went there. If he has listened to my mom, he would have found the same store with only one left turn less than 5 minutes away. We all had a good laugh at his expense when we learned what he had done.
    Technology can be great, but you still have to use your common sense and often, not trust technology blindly.

     

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  29.  
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    Bruce, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 12:32am

    Just for the sake of information.

    Tourist were coming from Venice, in the further north of Italy, Carpi is just a few hundreds Km away from there, near Bologna, Capri is far in the South, in front of Naples.

    And it is an island...

     

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  30.  
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    JustMe, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 4:53am

    Not a GPS error

    Sorry Mike, I wouldn't have used that headline for the article.


    Also, Bruce. You are correct but I'll quibble about your choice of words. In Italy 'far' has a different meaning than it does in the US. The country is only about 18% larger than the US state of Michigan.

     

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  31.  
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    pocketasian, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 6:07am

    Re: Woww...

    Thanks, I'm glad someone else caught that. I was about to wonder if those posters decided to actually READ the post before commenting.

    Also, who types something into a GPS and doesn't check it at least once to make sure they put in the correct information. Hell, I double check my google maps directions or my map quest for errors against a map.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 6:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Assuming

    To ASSUME makes an A$$ out of U and ME.
    End of story.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 6:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Assuming

    This rather pathetic flailing around, nit-picking and trying to score points in an attempt to "beat" Mike is what makes you an ass, nothing else. You seem to be blithely unaware of just how obvious and ridiculous you have become.

    The only thing you are successfully undermining here is (what little remains of) your own credibility. As the saying goes, intelligence is invisible to the man who has none.

     

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  34.  
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    hegemon13, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 6:58am

    Ridiculous Headline

    They weren't led off course. They were, in fact, right on course. They just chose the wrong destination. Trusting their GPS was not the problem. Clearly, trusting themselves to make the drive was where the problem really lay. Should they have at least reviewed the route before driving 400 miles to ensure that they were going to the right place? Sure, your article indicates how stupid these people are, but your headline clearly suggests is the fault of their GPS site. That's a pretty lame, click-generating attempt, especially for a tech blog.

     

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  35.  
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    hegemon13, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 6:59am

    Re: Re:

    No, but your headline clearly suggested it. If you are going to deny that, then you're lying with more Masnick backpedaling and double-speak. Seriously, people would respect you a lot more if you didn't try to weasel out of what you say in the comments.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 7:00am

    Re: Not a GPS error

    That's right. In Italy, far actually means "Hello, my friend" whereas in America, it means cheese-roll.

     

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  37.  
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    hegemon13, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 7:02am

    Re: Ridiculous Headline

    Oops. I am not sure what a "GPS site" is, but I meant "GPS device."

     

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  38.  
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    Strifejester, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 7:03am

    Idiots

    This is getting bad Mike you and the people the article is about should get in the car, and drive off a cliff by changing the gps to walking mode and then travel up some mountains i mean seriously. This has nothing to do with the GPS leading them anywhere then where they told it and is hardly worth a front page post. You make it sound like they should sue garmin or something becuase the GPS didn't ask if they meant Capri? 0's and 1's thats all it is...

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 7:32am

    I found out the hard way that in Washington, D.C., 18th street NE and 18th street NW are on OPPOSITE sides of town, and one of them is the side you don't want to be on. The GPS took me exactly where I programmed it to, but I didn't program it to go where I needed to go.

    Never go anywhere you're unfamiliar with the roads without a road map, and one that shows a lot of detail if possible.

     

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  40.  
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    Yakko Warner, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 7:44am

    Re: It is all in the headline, the body is ok.

    In the BBC case, it sounds to me more like the GPS was the thing that made the error. It wasn't the GPS's gaffe, it was the user's (their data input). The system worked perfectly; it was just a case of garbage in, garbage out.

    Although even in the BBC headline, "GPS gaffe" could be read as "mistake made with a GPS" rather than "...by a GPS", so that would be technically accurate, too.

    I think you guys are reading way too much into the headline. The data coming out of the GPS was incorrect for their situation, and instead of trusting their eyes and ears of what is going on in the real world around them, they trusted the computer-generated map on the screen. And the result is, it took them 400 miles off of their course.

    That's the point of the story. They trusted the output without bothering to think about it, or questioning why what they saw differed with what the GPS said. And that's the headline.

    The detail of the exact cause of the initial error is not spelled out in the headline; rather, you have to actually read the story to find out why the error occurred. In basic journalistic fashion (if I remember what I learned in grade school), the who/what/where/when/why/how is answered in the first (and only) paragraph. I'm not sure why you're expecting to see these details in the headline.

     

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