Friday, August 05, 2005

Thornhill-Broome Beach

I've had a couple of nights at a campground on the beach, just 40 miles from Los Angeles, getting some of the road stress eased out. For the next few days I'll be at a hotel, being a writer with a bunch of other writers, so it is an entirely different environment than driving hundreds of miles and sleeping in the jeep day after day. The first thing I'll do after checking in is to scrub the road dust off me.

Yesterday I did a little scouting in LA, finding the hotel, buying a little food. It brought to mind one of the flaws in my GPS.

The GPS does road routing. Enter a starting point anywhere in the country, and tell it where you want to go, and it searches its massive database of roads and speed limits and calculates how to get you there the fastest. On the little screen is a map, with a gray line overlaid showing your route. As each turn approaches, it will notify you and give you a countdown in tenths of a mile and then feet, where you should turn.

The problem is with the map. As the map-makers composed this grand combined map of the country, they must have patched together many smaller maps, and sometimes, they don't get the seams straight. I've seen this a half dozen times in the few years I've used the GPS. Near my house, on the border of Travis and Williamson counties, there is a section of road that doesn't exist in the mind of the little gadget, so although you can see the road right in front of you, the GPS attempts to route you several miles out of the way to get to the next block.

It happened again yesterday. I was driving down Farfax toward the I-10 and suddenly, there was a very curious order to turn left. I checked the next turns, and sure enough, the GPS wanted me to turn off of Farfax for less than a block, and then turn back onto Farfax. There must be a little section of Farfax, no more than a couple of feet, that doesn't exist for the GPS.

I was onto it this time. The route on the little map display was at a bigger scale and I couldn't even see the diversion, so I drove right on through the dead zone. Poor little gadget, it took another mile or so before it could understand and go back to its business.


Chris Nystrom said...

The company that makes it, ought to offer a small cash reward for confirmed reports of anomolies until they are all ironed out.

Henry Melton said...

Perhaps in an ideal world. I do know that there is an email address where you can send details of map errors. I suppose that goes to the mapping company. The GPS manufacturer probably just contacts with the map company. Getting a map right is an impossible job. It is in constant motion, like a plate of worms. New construction, flood damage, plans that are made and abandoned -- all of those are in constant play.

I know that the GPS III which I bought before the GPS V has the highway 130 plotted through the Round Rock area, but the plot is based on an early idea of where the highway would be built. The construction is underway as we type, and the new location is often several miles from where the map shows it to be.