by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
directions, gps

Saying Bad GPS Directions = 'Killing Children' Seems A Bit Extreme

from the don't-you-think? dept

Everyone knows that GPS devices have varying degrees of quality when it comes to providing routing directions. Generally speaking, none are great, especially when it comes to local roads. Some are better than others, but it generally depends on the location. Still, it seems a bit extreme to dub GPS devices with poor navigation skills as "child killers." However, that appears to be what some researchers have done in a report on GPS driving systems as tested in the Netherlands. Apparently, most of the navigation systems don't recognize that certain residential areas are really designed for local access only, rather than having cars travel through them. So they send people through those roads, where pedestrians have the right of way. From that, the researchers take the leap (and it's a big one) to calling them "kid killers." It's one way to get attention for your research, but not exactly the best way to get yourself taken seriously.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Iron Chef, Jan 8th, 2008 @ 9:40pm

    I will find you...

    So if we teach kids to follow GPS directions, I think we're doing a disservice to everyone, because driving a car should be based around the fundamentals of actually driving a car, and not blindly following the directions spilled out by a tool.

    A GPS is a Tool, not an end all solution. If you treat it as an end-all solution, hate to say it, but your being a bad parent. Teach your kiddos to DRIVE and use common sense. Once they have suceeded at that, then, (and only then), introduce technology as a helper.

    This is the only way it will work. If you put the cart before the horse, you'll surely ruin it for all of us, and Ol Iron Chef will hunt you down and provide testamony against you kid. I guarantee you that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Jeff, Jan 8th, 2008 @ 9:42pm


    They've singlehandedly destroyed any hope of legitimacy in publishing something so wreckless and by praying on people emotions. I implore everyone to spread the word (as you have) about bad science and scientific methodology, esp. as it pertains to public policy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Paul`, Jan 8th, 2008 @ 9:49pm

    Re: I will find you...

    GPS direction services aren't intended to replace any fundamentals of driving a car, they're just interactive maps with speakers. I can't see how it takes anything out of or replaces any skill needed for driving which seems to be what you are saying.

    Obviously you need to know how to drive a car before you can take directions on driving it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Gabrieltane, Jan 8th, 2008 @ 10:04pm

    Re: Re: I will find you...

    Missing the point here...

    The ridiculous leap being made by this report is that these drivers who have been routed through these local-traffic-only areas are going to be completely unfamiliar with the area and therefore run over the kids that live there. And it's going to be the GPS devices' fault that they were there in the first place.

    It has nothing to do with the training of young drivers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    zcat, Jan 8th, 2008 @ 10:16pm


    Do all GPS owners drive around with their eyes tightly closed, or is this only a minority?

    Perhaps GPS maps ought to be deliberately loaded with the occasional 'long drive off a short pier' to weed out people who shouldn't be driving in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    ECA (profile), Jan 8th, 2008 @ 10:18pm

    GPS directions.

    1. car stops on tracks, Car killed after following GPS directions
    2. person runs off cliff Following GPS directions.
    3. person ends up in WRONG part of town and is Highjacked, after following GPS directions...

    I find 1 common ERROR...The HUMAN FOLLOWING directions, DONT KNOW WHERE THEY ARE>

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2008 @ 10:59pm

    well if you are driving guided by a gps or not you still have to follow the rules of the road, stop for stop signs, stop for pedistrians crossing.

    what kind of road doesnt allow cars on it anyway? in amercia we walk on sidewalks the opposite direction of the cars so we see them coming not in the middle of roads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2008 @ 11:10pm

    Re: I will find you...

    car gps's that give directions were inteded to give people the ability to quicklly plot a route to get you to your destination without looking at a map and the fewest wrong turns which mine does sucessfully.

    someone who uses a gps without learning how to find their way without one will not know how to use a map, know the names of roads, and get lost easily which allready i had problems with anyway.

    now maybe someone who watches the gps instead of looking at the road could be a child killer same could be said for someone who looks at a map while driving or fiddles with finding the right cd to listen to. my gps tells me what i need to do so i dont have to look at it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Jim, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 12:00am

    "Child Killer"

    Rules of the road and driving skills have no meaning in North America and we have no capacity to understand what the Dutch point is. In Europe they drive cars, here cars drive us. Keep your blinders on pal they suit you,"don't-you-think?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Bob, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 1:43am

    As moronic as the guy above me

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Merijn Vogel, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 1:49am

    Here in the Netherlands the road structure is far different than the one in the US. Our sidewalks are not as high, sometimes level with the street. The streets here mentioned are narrow. One little town had to ban large vehicles from their roads to 'hint' truckdrivers that they had to avoid it. Many large trucks became stuck in the narrow roads.

    In general, the maps in the Netherlands for GPS are very good; however, sometimes the *directions* are not, and yet followed blindly, despite the extremely good roadsign-directions.

    Increasing (heavy truck) traffic in small towns where people not generally expect them is a serious issue and really increases the danger for accidents.

    Add to that equation that cycling is not 'common' but 'ubiquitous', (there are more bicycles than people here) and serious accidents are bound to increase and happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    SimonTek (profile), Jan 9th, 2008 @ 2:26am

    old days

    I remember when I was young, I learned how to read a map, and use a compass. Soon will be the time where no one can read maps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 2:46am

    Perhaps they came on a bit strong...

    with the phrase "child killers"

    But it does highlight an important point which is that GPS systems do have the potential to direct more traffic - in some cases MUCH more traffic via residential areas

    No the GPS is not going to run over a kid, but rerouting potentially large amounts of traffic through small residential streets is bound to lead to more accidents

    Surely peoiple can grasp that? Or does everyone here let their kids play on the freeway?

    Personally I think it highlights that the manufacturers need to be a bit more responsible and come up with some method which takes into account whether a street is residential or not and possibly other factors

    A lot of the time using these streets is no faster anyway due to their size and speed limits. Some of the younger taxi drivers near my house use them and the 'quick route' to the airport usually isn't in my experience

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 3:01am

    Re: Perhaps they came on a bit strong...

    They run into the problem of not having different definitions for the type of road you are traveling on. They need to include things like speed limits and road size into the calculations of routes.

    This is the next generation of data. Perhaps the google picture car will pick up on this when it drives through the neighborhood.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 3:13am

    Re: Re: Perhaps they came on a bit strong...

    True - I didn't say it would be easy but they could still come up with a way of doing it - I can think of a few off the top of my head which would be good starting points (probably need a lot of work ironing out the obvious bits I've missed but ain't that always the way)

    I would guess that mapping roads in a GPS is not easy either but they did that so applying the same problem solving abilities to a problem they are creating would seem to be a good idea (I'm surpirsed that they didn't see thisone coming from a long way off)

    I would suggest they start if they haven't already, as I can see this being the type of thing that governments will start cracking down on if not. The obvious implication being that you will have some government office in a given country saying "you must do it this way, using this half assed system" or "you must live up to these requirements"

    If the mapping companies were to do it and achieve a decent provable success rate they would probably be in a good position and likely be able to at least help consult on the rules

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Paul`, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 3:48am


    They are useful but common sense needs to apply. On a trip into the country with my family our GPS lead us on a giant loop by making us go left then straight for 5 minutes, right the straight for another 5, then right again untill we hit the road we were on previously then go back onto it. Totally pointless excursion but still, at least we didn't follow it off a cliff

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anom, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 4:47am

    Dee Da Dee People

    Bad GPS directions + stupid people driving + No common sense = Killing Children

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Lohocla, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 5:27am

    Kinda makes sense

    Considering that there are many instances of drivers being turned into simpletons by their GPS's, it's not too much of a leap to assume the worst if they get led into a residential area. Someone in my area last year drove his car into someones living room because his GPS told him to turn left and he did. Blamed the GPS too which is sad.

    It's scary how the "information age" is destroying the concept of common sense and personal responsibility.



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Just Me, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 5:42am


    I don't think it's so much a case of a device (any device) turning people into simpletons as it is a case of people being more than willing to let something else do the thinking for them.
    We see this all the time in politics, religion and even workplaces - get something/someone thinking for people and they'll follow it like the good little sheep that they are.

    The only reason this is any different is because the effect is a lot more apparent and the blame shifting is becoming rather ridiculous.

    A GPS device will only make a simpleton of a person who allows it to.
    People need to start accepting responsibility for their own actions; GPS told you to drive into a house - still your fault, got drunk and ran someone down driving home - still your fault, broke and hungry so you decide to knock off a liquor store and end up shooting the clerk - still your fault.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Tim, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 6:25am

    People don't kill people.

    Maps kill people.

    Heard it here first...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 6:33am

    Does anybody plan a trip to an unfamiliar area without looking at a map first?

    I drove out to Colorado following a classmate one time. To get to our destination he wanted to take a road over the mountains that didn't even show up on the map I had. When I hesitated he got pissy and said 'fine' and headed off on his own.

    When he turned up a full day late it turned out that the 'road' he took was an unimproved gravel road that was intended for four-wheel-drive vehicles, not a Buick Regal, and after taking nearly six hours to go about ten miles he found out the road was impassible at the summit for his car and he ended up backtracking to where we parted ways earlier in the day. Coming back down in the dark he got stuck and had to wait until morning to find somebody to pull his car out of the mud.

    GPS is a tool. Just like a map. It was never intended as a replacement for common sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 7:08am

    You answered your own question up there.

    Testing should be mandatory to qualify for having children and using GPS systems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    You never know, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 7:21am

    And to think, several major automotive manufactures have announced that it is time to start building driverless cars. I would say it is already happening. Perhaps it’s time to think inversely and make more Carless drivers!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 7:40am

    GPS doesn't kill people...

    ...Mike does. Obviously, he does not care about the children, and wants them to die.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    His Shadow, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 7:57am

    Funny. Rob Enderle said the iPhone was a "child killer" as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 10:18am

    GM recently announced driverless cars will be on the road in 5 years.

    Personally I just can not wait.

    Wait that is for the invariable results of driverless cars barreling down streets disregarding all obstacles in their path.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 10:58am


    Wow! Everyone just wants to blame electronics for everything that happens while idoits are driving... First it was Stereos, then Cell Phones, now GPS devices... IF YOU CAN'T DRIVE and talk DON'T, if you can't drive and adjust the Volume don't, and if you can't listen to a voice sanying TURN RIGHT in 500 feet OMG how did you pass your drivers test???? Really why can't we just say yes that stupid driver coudn't figure out how to drive down the road and wrecked... instead of saying due to a cell phone this "perfect person" wrecked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Sos, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    Smarter Maps?

    Surely if my Tomtom maps recognize tolls and red light cameras, they can put local residential areas in as well and have an option to avoid these areas when planning a route?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Bob, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 3:31pm

    perhaps parents should be trained how to properly keep their damn kids from playing in the street and we wouldnt have this problem. Streets are to drive on , NOT PLAY ON!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    ace rimmer, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 6:20pm


    I am a proffessional driver in Canada... and have drove large trucks all over the US and Canada for about 18 years ... never owned a GPS System... have had to drive a large vehicle into places that are very difficult to manuver... without incident... and im sorry to say i feel i must take issue with that statement... Studies in Canada have show that most accidents in this country are caused by smaller vehicles (mostly rushing to pass the slower moving vehicle...) cause more than 90% of the accidents involving larger vehicles... I dont know about the training the drivers in your country recieve, but here the majority know what they are doing and are capable in their work... Most drivers in cars drive about 20,000 km per year... I myself have drove more than 250,000 km per year... through roads that i really didnt want to go down... but had to... People may be intimidated by the size of the truck... But generally the person behind the wheel knows the vehicle and has a better understanding of it then the guy in his car behind him annoyed because the truck is forcing him to do the speed limit... Im not trying to say we are gods on the roads... I have seen some bad drivers in trucks... but not nearly as may as i have in cars...

    Think about it my friend... If you got it... It was most likely in the back of a truck at some point

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Ace Rimmer, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 6:22pm

    Re: old days

    Just like they cant read an anolog watch...lol

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    ace rimmer, Jan 9th, 2008 @ 6:27pm

    Re: RE:

    yet hey seem to be able to whach the DVD player with no problems... lol

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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