from the on-top-of-a-mountain-and-at-the-bottom-of-a-lake dept
We've had tons of stories over the years of people blindly obeying their GPS devices way too far, leading to dangerous results... and yet it keeps on happening. Here are two more examples, with one leading to a car stuck atop a mountain, and the other at the bottom of a reservoir. The first, sent in by btr1701, involves a guy in Switzerland who followed his GPS up a mountain on a road so narrow that eventually his car got stuck and had to be helicoptered out (there are pictures at the link).
Then there's the guy over in Spain, who followed his GPS directions directly into a reservoir and drowned (the passenger in his car managed to escape and make it to shore, but the driver was apparently unable to swim). The report notes that the reservoir in question is Spain's largest and has been there since 1989, so it seems like any GPS mapping system should be aware of the change by now.
Either way, it still does make you wonder why people believe their GPS over their own lying eyes.
Yesterday, we covered the bizarre lawsuit of a woman suing Google because she got hit by a car while trying to follow Google Maps' walking directions. Danny Sullivan, who broke the story, now has a follow up following a discussion with the woman's lawyer. Apparently, they feel the lawsuit is justified because it was early in the morning and it was dark out, so the woman couldn't properly see that the opposite side of the road had no sidewalk:
"It was 6 in the morning. It was not a busy street [then]. She believed there was a sidewalk on the other side." ....
"She was in an area that she'd never been to before. It was pitch black. There were no street lights. She relied on Google that she'd cross there and go down to a sidewalk."
Even if it wasn't a busy street, there's clearly no cross walk. And you'd have to think that even in the darkness, someone could recognize that. Again, Sullivan has the image:
On top of that, her decision to rely on Google is her decision. It's hardly Google's fault. And, if it wasn't a busy street at the time, you would think she would be able to time crossing the street to not get hit by a car. But she didn't:
In fact, Rosenberg never reached the other side. She left the end of Park Avenue to cross to the far side of Deer Valley Drive / State Route 224 and was struck while crossing.
The other bit of info that Sullivan cleared up is the fact that Google Maps walking directions on mobile phones do, in fact, carry a warning, which says: Walking directions (beta): use caution. The woman insists that no such warning was on the phone, but Google says it's been there since it launched walking directions.
There have been plenty of stories over the years of drivers blindly following their GPS over a cliff or onto railroad tracks. After doing such things, it may be natural for the driver to blame the technology, though it's unlikely to help you out much in court. However, it appears that one pedestrian has taken things a step further. After using Google's "still in beta" (for a good reason) "walking directions" while trying to get somewhere in Park City, Utah, she found herself on a highway, where she was hit by a car. So, in response, she's suing both Google and the driver of the car. Danny Sullivan explores the issue in much greater detail at that link, and comes to the same conclusion I assume many of you already jumped to: at some point, you just have to assume some sense of responsibility if you're the pedestrian. Sullivan pops out the following two Street View images showing the road in question, and wonders why the woman didn't realize that this road was not designed to be crossed. The first photo is of the intersection she would come to before crossing (note: no crosswalk):
And then, if she did manage to rush across that street, this is what she would see on the other site:
At some point, common sense is supposed to kick in and the pedestrian says, "hey, this is not designed for walking."
But, the woman who filed this lawsuit seems to want to blame everyone else for her own decision to try to cross a street that is obviously not for pedestrian crossing. In fact, the full lawsuit seems to contradict itself at points, since it seeks to blame both the driver who hit her for driving too fast... but at the same time seeks to blame Google for putting her on "a roadway that exhibits motor vehicles traveling at high speeds, that is not reasonably safe for pedestrians."
If the road itself involved cars that were too fast for pedestrians, then why is she also blaming the driver for driving too fast? On top of that, the lawsuit asserts that Google should have known that the road was not designed for pedestrians. Which leads me to ask a simple question: if this woman, who was standing on the side of the road herself didn't make that judgment, despite all the evidence in front of her, why does she assume that some routing algorithm at Google should have reasonably known that fact?
In the end, this looks like yet another case of a Steve Dallas lawsuit, where a big company is sued for someone's own mistakes, because that big company has lots of money.
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.