Have you noticed lately that Maps is sending a lot of drivers up the garden path, or on a wild goose chase? And when the baby is due and you’re trying to find your way to the hospital, in the dark, that’s not a great scenario.
Granted, it’s not as bad as the early days of GPS, when tourists were told to drive into the ocean, or off a cliff; when you had to take your new car to the dealership because the Satnav was laughably out of date, and needed a new CD-ROM. And updating your Garmin was a serious cost-benefit decision.
But the problem is almost worse, since phones have taken over all our mapping and navigation needs. We’ve come to rely on them exclusively, trusting the apps to find the best route. Which they do – most of the time. And apps like Waze are terrific at beating traffic and warning you of real-time hazards on the road, by harnessing the power of the crowd.
Gone are the days of a dedicated GPS device or navigation service. It’s now dematerialized and democratized, in every phone, and it’s free. Which is part of the problem; when no one is actually paying for the service, the users become the information providers. And updates from satellite images and reported errors are processed by the machine learning algorithms, not an expert team of cartographers. Who is to know if the crowd-sourced data is accurate, or fake info from a prankster?
The world is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. I remember visiting Egypt for the first time, decades ago. When I asked the rental car agent for a map, he laughed. “The maps are all wrong!” he said, but the crude map he drew on the back of the contract was surprisingly useful. Nothing beats local knowledge and experience, and personalized guiding is now a big business opportunity.
So, if you’re expecting a baby soon, it’s wiser to plan and drive the route beforehand, or just call the ambulance drone!