Drivers' Submission To GPS Units Prompts 'Ignore Your Nav Unit' Road Signs

from the telling-people-to-not-be-told-what-to-do dept

We’ve written before about cases of people blindly following GPS units’ advice even when they’re pretty clearly wrong — such as people so trusting of their nav units that they ignore signs saying roads are closed due to flooding and try to drive right through. Another problem is that the machines aren’t often discriminating enough, and think that any possible route is a good one, leading to plenty of stuck vehicles and other problems. Now, one village in England has put up the first “ignore your sat nav” road signs after truck drivers kept getting stuck on a road that narrows to just six feet wide. Locals say that about two years ago, the road started getting a lot more traffic — all from truck drivers following directions from their GPS units. It’s a bit hard to put all the blame on the drivers here without knowing more about the area, since presumably this hazard might be a little harder to see coming than a flooded-out road or a 200-mile route for what should be a 10-mile trip. But it does reflect just how much trust and belief people will put in machines like GPS navigation units these days, which can be troubling — and also gives makers of such machines some responsibility to ensure they’re not doling out bad directions, since people will so blindly follow them.

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Comments on “Drivers' Submission To GPS Units Prompts 'Ignore Your Nav Unit' Road Signs”

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Luci (profile) says:


I won’t even use MapQuest except for the most general of directions or to show me my destination on a map, as I find the directions they give are a bit too convoluted or heavily trafficked. I trust my atlas and that toll free call to the state DoT for construction reports. It still comes down to the human brain and your own direction sense (or suction-cup compass on the windshield) being the tools for the job.

Sanguine Dream says:

I knew it!

I used to say all the time that those units could not be accurate all the time and people would argue to the death about it with me. The only way GPS units can be 100% dead on correct is to constantly monitor every road, highway, interstate, and path in the country. And not just to plot out where the roads go but also weather warnings or else you’ll blindly take a road that leads to a bridge that is down for construction.

I say an out of commision bridge because that is not as obvious as a flooded road. Those people are just dumb.

Dosquatch says:

Re: I knew it!

The only way GPS units can be 100% dead on correct is to constantly monitor every road, highway, interstate, and path in the country.

To split a hair, the GPS locator and the driving directions engine shouldn’t be confused with each other. A unit giving bad directions can still tell you exactly where you are.

But that’s not your point. I use MS Streets on a laptop with a USB GPS receiver. I plot my course before I leave on any major trip, sanity check the directions, tweak where needed, and – this is the part you’re speaking about – the program will go out to a national database that checks for any adverse road conditions. Oh, it can’t tell me about accidents or gridlock or whatnot, but it does tell me about any construction and whatnot along the way. That lets me reroute before I ever leave home.

It has other nice features, too, like a location database (“Find me a restaurant!”, “Damn, I need gas soon…”), and a “Re-route from here” function when I venture off of my path.

Does it always pick the route I’d pick in an area I’m familiar with? Heck, no. That probably means that it doesn’t ever pick the “best” route, it picks the route that’s the hardest to muck up. I can appreciate that 😉

keymjg says:

Not always right

Work a job where the correct direction are the difference between life and death and the GPS I use is correct less then half the time. Most times is a small error, a right instead of a left, but non the less an error. Not to be trusted. That being said most of the people I know that have them in thier cars are always double checking with plain ol’ paper maps. It’s just not there yet.

Ryan (profile) says:


Why an ignore your sat nav sign? Why not a more correct “narrow road” sign.

It seems to me that the directions are only wrong for people in trucks, and that if I’m in a normal car I’d have no problem using that road.

Don’t tell me to ignore my sat nav if the directions are correct. If the road is too narrow, tell me that and I won’t take it if I have a wide truck.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: wait..

Ryan, your comment makes too much sense. That being said, any signs at all, regardless of message, are going to be useless to those few special people who drive down a clearly flooded street because a machine told them to– as they are clearly not looking at anything outside the vehicle.

I, for one, welcome our tiny, direction-giving overlords. (Sorry, It was there, I had to take it.)

sabre 1 says:

Re: wait..

i agree with Ryan i began driving truck 4 months ago and bought the magellan 4040,thinking i made this an easy job.i was wrong!The first mistake was following a mountain road in west virginia i learned after that one to check my atlas for truck routes.some non truck routes are not even marked from their point of origin at the i know when to tell miss magellan to shut the hell up and quit being a back seat driver.more improvement on road sighns would be nice

Anonymous Coward says:

I use the Nav system in our Mini Cooper a fair amount, and the only time it’s directions were wrong were when the address we were given was incorrect. There have been times when roads have changed since the DVD map we had was updated, but those are generally not the destination, just some intersections along the way. Sure, it tells me I need to be 50 yards in a different direction, but when I’m on a new on-ramp to a highway I know I’m doing the right thing.

Anyone who blindly follows the directions to turn without looking out their window first deserves to wreck their own car.

Geeger Shmeegs says:

@ EdB, I’m behind you 100%. It’s great that we have all kinds of advances in safety and medicine, but unfortunately, we have done away with Darwinism. What ever happened to survival of the fittest/intelligent?

As for using something other than GPS, I hate to make this plug, but I would recommend MS Streets and Trips. The most recent version will even tell you about portions of road that are under construction, something that Mapquest doesn’t do.

Dr. Rings says:

How about an “open source” NAV database and NAV device, that users can modify, kind of like Wikipedia, with some sort of oversight and accountability. Updates could be downloaded daily via wireless or USB.

I would love to be able to make corrections to obvious errors in my local NAV database (Lexus, Mercedes and a TomTom)

Our TomTom is the best of all three, but does have it’s errors: on Oahu it shows a navigable road around the Northwest part of the island. Any local knows that road has not been used in decades, and is completely un-navigable in almost any vehicle. But the NAV units will show you the road as the quickest way around to the other side of the mountain range.

Another example is here in Pensacola where a builder submitted plans for a neighborhood, but it never got built. Well, all the planned roads from ten years ago which never got built are on every paper and electronic map in the world, with no chance of being corrected. I guess the map-makers just perpetuate the errors of those before them. Any satellite photo confirms the roads don’t exist.

If users could submit errors, and after some confirmation process, make the correction available…

Ahh, I forgot, there are lawyers and idiots out there as road-blocks to improvements…

Dosquatch says:

Re: Re:

How about an “open source” NAV database and NAV device, that users can modify, kind of like Wikipedia, with some sort of oversight and accountability.

Heck, I don’t even feel any particular need to share with the class… if MS Streets would just let me tweak my own maps for my own purposes, I’d be happier. There are a couple of roads and subdivisions that don’t exist in my database, and I get tired of listening to the stupid thing bellyache about being off course.

Anonymous Coward says:

There was a commercial for the Ford Ranger a few years ago where a girl was driving and a guy was barking out directions while staring at a GPS device, not once looking out the window. He finally said “welcome to downtown Minneapolis!” and looked up, only to find they were offroad in the snow in basically the middle of nowhere.

Then there’s that Reader’s Digest joke (true story) about a guy and his kid out hiking in the mountains. The dad wonders where exactly they are, so his kid pulls out a GPS unit, and supposedly after triangulating through 3 different satellites, he pointed and said “we’re on that mountain over there.”

GPS units do have their place, but the technology is still too unreliable to be a commonplace item, IMO, and they allow themselves to be abused by lazy and stupid people. Now they’re trying to come out with farm equipment that drives itself via GPS so farmers don’t have to run it (welcome to the lazy farm). I can’t wait to start seeing complaints and lawsuits when said equipment starts driving into ditches, or knocks down your neighbor’s crops and whatnot.

I myself will not spend money on one of those things unless I find it absolutely necessary someday, which I doubt will ever happen. Places like Mapquest and Google Maps get me where I need to go just fine, as long as you do a little planning ahead, which you should do before a trip anyway.

Trouble Maker says:

two cents worth

…as I step up on the soapbox

Self Responsibility

As a Pilot in Command is responsible for aircraft and the lives of all those onboard, as driver is responsible for their vehicle and the lives they touch with their car.

GPS, it is a tool, as a paper map is a tool. Most Self Responsible craftsmen will not use a wrench to hammer in a nail or a screwdriver to pry apart a pressed fitting.

How much money did you spend for your GPS? Is it a GPS with INS? Do you have updateable data sources? If you don’t know, maybe you should learn how to use your tool.

DT says:

They are ALL wrong

My GPS tells me I live a couple houses down at my neighbor’s.
So does Mapquest, Google Maps, and Yahoo Maps.

Still, I don’t show up on my neighbor’s doorstep whenever I come home.

Having cool technology to help us with stuff does not mean throwing common sense out the window.

However, if you didn’t have any sense in the first place, maybe you belong on a flooded road with your GPS.

Andy says:

I like the idea of an open source nav database or at least kind of a dictionary of corrections you can lay on top of your existing map in the gps, so at least errors don’t get repeated.Just like MS Words “add to dictionary” I.e. tell the gps that this street is now one-way or that the street dead-ends, etc…
We got at GPS not long ago, and while it is a great addition to an atlas and knows all the streets, it is not replacing the atlas. There was quite a few glitches we encountered so far. I.e. Point of interest is mixed up and not where it should be, address is incorrect because it is “south airport blvd” not “airport blvd” and other fine points.
However, all-in-all it is a helpful addition and even in my neighborhood of 5 years shows me different, interesting ways to get to the freeway

Hozen says:

COMMONSENSE, wait, what? im confuzed

What ever happened to commonsense?

maye they should put a quick lesson in the GPS instruction manuals or start teaching it in schools, but then i guess it would nolonger be called COMMONsense if it had to be tought. maybe just a sticker across the top of the windshield that say something like payattention dumb ass, but then people would pay too much attention to that and still get in accidents and drive off clifs in wich case good ridance.

Al Morgan says:

Truck Route Info

I can verify that “truck Route” in Garmin’s is pure apple sauce.
After being directed down “pipeline Road” on the bus setting, (which turned out to be a rutted track barely useable for off road vehicles AND with a barred gate across the road, a ‘rep cheerfully informed me “oh no that doesn’t work, don’t know why they put that in there!
If RV’ing or trucking, be very skeptical about GPS info.

Martin Vlietstra says:

Was the sign in feet or in metres?

Rather than putting up sings which read “Ignore your GPS”, they should be putting up repeater width warning signs in BOTH METRES AND FEET. After all, a Polish driver knows exactly what “2 m” means – it is international, but he might not understand what “Ignore your GPS” means – he might be fluent in Polish, German and Russian, but not understand English.

Jimmy says:

In the future

It is funny seeing this from the 2010 perspective. Now, even non-techies are dominating the road with their gps. That speaks out a lot of trust if you ask me. There is this whole magellan vs garmin vs tomtom race too. it really takes out the heat. An interesting article on it is at the following link:

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