Some People Still Can't Seem To Question Their Car's GPS

from the out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-germany dept

Welll, it's been over two years since we've had one of these stories here at Techdirt, but some people will still follow their GPS blindly despite every bit of common sense available telling them to do otherwise. Admittedly, for my money, the Darwin-Awards-esque fashion in which some folks will literally follow their GPS over a cliff, up a mountain, or into a drowning-inducing resevoir provide some of the best entertainment bang for the click as far as I’m concerned. And while, for comedy purposes, it may be tempting to litigate against Tom Tom under the notion that these drivers were seriously seeking out Bespin, Mount Olympus, and a mini-Atlantis respectively, the unfortunate truth is that these drivers were just dumb.

Pictured: what happens when you type 'Hoth' as your GPS destination
Image source: CC BY 2.0

Now we can add a lovely elderly woman from Belgium to the list of people who toss common sense to the curb in favor of their GPS, though she admittedly performed this action in such distinctive fashion as to separate herself from the pack.

The woman identified by Het Nieuwsblad as the 67-year-old Sabine Moureau told the paper: “I was absent-minded so I kept on putting my foot down.”

Sabine started her journey in Erquelinnes on the morning of last Saturday week. “I was going to pick up my friend in the Brussels North Station” she told the paper. The journey should have taken just over an hour, but she ended up 1,450km from her starting point.

Yes, instead of reaching her destination in Brussels, which Google informs me is in Belgium, she concluded her GPS-led journey in Zagreb, which Google likewise informs me is in Croatia. For those of you who are as European-geography-challenged as I am, this means she essentially drove from the North Sea to the Adriatic Sea. If that doesn’t help you much (And why would it? You’ve already said you’re geography-challenged, dummy!), consider that Sabine’s trek caused her to touch Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and finally Croatia, taking something like 12 hours. Perhaps this Google Maps link will really drive home the point.

Point C is where she began. Point B is where she wanted to go. Point D is where she did go. Think about that for a bit…

To Sabine’s credit, she provides more than just the driving skills of an otter to laugh at. She has quotes, too!

“I saw tons of different signposts, first in French, later in German, but I kept on driving.” Sabine had to fill up twice and slept a few hours by the wayside, but claims she never really caught on to the fact that she might be on the wrong track. “It was only when I ended up in Zagreb that I realised I was no longer in Belgium.”

Well, I say bless your heart, you wonderfully trusting woman. Were it not for you, Techdirt may have gone 3 full years without a silly GPS story. On the other hand, one has to wonder if the friends you keep are cut from the same cloth as you, because I’d hate to think that your friend is still waiting at the Brussels North Station, wondering where the hell you are.


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Comments on “Some People Still Can't Seem To Question Their Car's GPS”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Low blow

OK – either this woman was stupid, or we should be thankful that the mental condition that seriously reduces her ability to operate her motor vehicle was revealed before she caused an accident and injured innocent 3rd parties. Next time she might be blaming her GPS for driving the wrong way down a motorway or ploughing into a school playground, so whatever the cause she’d be better off the road now.


G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Low blow

Stating that how the media has portrayed this as ‘stupid’ and that in the same comment state that this lady wasn’t stupid because since she was of some arbitrary age and must instead be suffering from dementia, Is the most amazing example of a negating oxymoron like statement of cognitive dissonance I have ever seen EVER. And I deal with politicians and bureaucrats all the time.

I am in awe Sir… in Awe!

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Low blow

My father is near that age and he is not that stupid. In fact he often scorns the GPS for giving stupid directions an only use maps instead to check the surroundings of a place he is visiting for the first time.

She MAY have some illness yes I’ll grant you that. However it is not mentioned anywhere and even if we end up finding that out please keep your moronic moralism to yourself and let others enjoy the hilarity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes, there is free unimpeded travel between all countries in the EU (or rather in the Schengen Area). However, Slovenia and Croatia is not a part of either. She would have been stopped and asked to show he passport.

There are often border controls where you have to slow down between countries as well, such as between Germany and Poland, but I don’t think there is between Germany and Belgium. So she can easily have driven quite a bit into Germany without realizing that anything was wrong.

But Zagreb? No way.

Q?r Tharkasd?ttir (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: No frigging way

I agree, I don’t believe one word of this story. Sorry, Mike, not one word. This from someone who has travelled exactly those roads dozens of times in her lifetime. Not even dementia, not even a ghost driver as we call them in Europe. Not that I don’t believe that GPS can and will screw up anytime it gets a chance to do so???almost missed a flight once when my taxi, in order to avoid a jam, insisted on following its gizmo and was driving off in the direction opposite to the airport. Because I did happen to know the way, it’s only a sizeable amount of yelling that saved my day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No frigging way

“Sorry, Mike, not one word.”

Why are you apologizing to Mike? Tim wrote the article.

But, you’re right. There’s no way you stop to SLEEP on a supposedly one hour trip without knowing you’re doing something wrong. I’ll give her a few hours of zombie-driving, but somewhere between Frankfurt and the Slovenian border this loses plausibility.

Also, the link to the original article looks like it’s saying “page not found”. I wonder if they had to pull the article, or if their links just expire fast.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No frigging way

“I agree, I don’t believe one word of this story. Sorry, Mike, not one word.”

So, why not take it up with either Timothy Geigner – who wrote the post you’re commenting on – or the journalist at where the story being talked about was reported? (Link appears to be down now but there’s many other sites reporting the same story, for example:

What you say might be true, but given that your own “facts” in response consist of “I don’t believe it”, an anecdote and criticism of someone not remotely related to the article, you’ll forgive me if I don’t immediately assume it’s all fake.

FuzzyDuck says:

Re: Re:

No, she’d only have encountered a border check point when leaving the so called Shengen area, that is when going from Slovenia to Croatia. And even there, it might not have been manned.

Though I wonder if she stopped at the Austrian border to pay her Austrian highway vignette? I guess she didn’t because that should have made it pretty obvious she was no longer in Belgium.

But then so should the somewhat taller mountains they have in Austria…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Never driven around Europe, have you? You can literally drive through the border without slowing down on some crossings. Languages may not have been a clue as German is a common language in Belgium so the signs may have been multilingual (never been there so I’m not sure if German would be signposted as well as French and Flemish), so Slovakia might have been the first time she encountered an unfamiliar language on a signpost.

Anyway, basic geography should have been a clue if nothing else. The time it was taking for the journey should have raised alarm bells as the journey should not have been anywhere near that long, but the names of German cities getting closer should also be a major clue. Perhaps she somehow missed Cologne (or Koln as I think it’s named locally, so the different name may not have clicked), but seeing the kilometres remaining to Frankfurt, Stuttgart or Nuremberg going ever downwards really should have raised a thought after a few hours on the road.

Perhaps the first poster is right and this is a sign of mental illness rather than pure stupidity, but either way it’s a sign that way too much trust is put into GPS units by some people ahead of the evidence of their own eyes.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: I'm confused

Why the hell isn’t there a Point A on the map?!

That would be my fault (I made the map for Tim). I couldn’t figure out how to do a map that showed a single starting point with two different destinations in Google Maps. So, instead, I started in her home town, went up to Brussels, then back to her home town… and then to Zagreb. That way both lines show up… but the downside is that her hometown is shown with the C, rather than an A.

I could have figured out a way to present it better, but, er… at that point I had better stuff to do. 🙂

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

hmmm it seems you have stumbled onto their plane against You.

Please for your own safety and those around you place yourself into the nearest safe shelter underground and don’t come out until we tell you it is safe.

This has been a community service brought to you by the Society against Cliques Of Normals Secretly Performing Insidious Rituals Aimed at Controlling You Nutters

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

OK… um…

Perhaps the government can manipulate the GPS satellites and spoof where your GPS thinks your car currently is. In fact, I’d be surprised if they did not have a way to turn it off or otherwise scramble it in case of war.

But the map data is actually present in your device itself. So if you tell it to go to Brussels, the only way to make it get you to go 1600 km east is if it puts your current location as 1600 km west of Brussels. But there’s a distinct lack of roads in the Atlantic. The GPS would notice this, and would not be telling you which road to take because it would not think you are anywhere near ANY roads.

Anonymous Coward says:

I try to doublecheck the directions, regardless of where they come from. I still remember that I wrote to one of the early atlas websites many years ago. Their directions indicated that you could turn off a local highway onto Main St. in my town. This is not only impossible, but it would be quite difficult to even find Main St. with so little information. When I informed them of the error, they basically told me that the software guys knew more than I did, despite the fact that I live 4 miles from the intersection. Trust no one!

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Government(GPS)

Gun Psycho Soulmates + we-hate-gubmint-unless-enforcing-our-bigotry-but-come-b*****-me-corporations = Grand Obnoxious Libertarian Tea Baggers

Finnily enough, it takes something with the resources of one or several countries’ governments to put up the satellites for a GPS system, so I hope you are putting your money where your mouth is and not using one, along with any other fruits of government such as roads, police, fire service, education… and I’m sure you think taxes are ‘theft’ too?

Anonymous Coward says:

This woman is 67 there might be some mental impairment of the dementia/Alzheimer sort going on here.

My 87 year old mother has cried a few times as I have driven her to shop or the Dr. Just because I did not drive the route that she would. This is a control issue where the person realizes the slipping of control. I just pull over and let her know that things are OK and that we will get to the destination just fine.

The only thing in this article I enjoyed is the Hoth reference picture. I got a smile from that, just remember to keep your Ton-ton close at hand in case of emergency.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, it’s not really related to the GPS itself in either case.

If she mistyped, then the GPS was working correctly and she failed to apply common sense, logic and awareness of her surroundings to work out that she wasn’t going in the right direction. She simply followed whatever the GPS was telling her, which is the problem. If the device was faulty in some way and she had entered the destination correctly, then the unit has some culpability but the above all still apply – at some point simply common sense should have overridden the GPS instructions.

The real question isn’t why the GPS was sending her where she went, it’s why she put such blind trust in a device that was clearly sending her in the wrong direction, despite all the evidence around her to the contrary.

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