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.

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Comments on “Another Driver Chooses To Believe GPS Over The Reality Of A Cliff”

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Petréa Mitchell says:


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.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

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.

Petréa Mitchell says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Me says:

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.

John Biggs says:

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.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Horace Whitaker Powerdumperino says:

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.

another mike says:

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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