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Your Smart Device is Making You Weird: GPS Induced Stupidity

isliderWhen a technology becomes reliable to a certain level people tend to free themselves from thought and responsibility to varying degrees.  Take for example the Global Position System (GPS), once an important tool limited to military applications, GPS is now standard and rightfully expected by consumers purchasing mobile devices, vehicles and more.

Whether you are in your car, on foot, or just planning an outing you are in need of direction and location information.  And, few technologies give quite as much assurance as GPS-aided navigation.

Our main thinking point for today’s article is this:

What happens when people over-rely on a convenience technology that is not necessarily always accurate?  If people stop thinking for themselves then what happens to the rest of us?

You be the judge, here are a few snippets from news stories around the web highlighting some of the not-so-great moments of GPS Induced Stupidity in another installment of a segment I like to call, Your Smart Device is Making You Weird.

The 32-year-old man, a computer maven, was on temporary assignment for an I.B.M. contractor in New York and wandered through the rolling hills here one evening, trusting in the cyber-driven intelligence of his car’s G.P.S. device rather than his own. As a result, according to Metro-North, he ended up making a right turn onto the railroad tracks and getting the undercarriage of his rented Ford Focus wedged between the rails. The man calmly hauled out his suitcase, called 911 and waited to wave the train to a stop. But the train couldn’t brake in time and ended up dragging the car for 100 feet until it burst into a fireball.

Read it Here

Most tales of GPS-Induced Stupidity do not end in fiery carnage (yet), but we see from this snippet that not even tech savvy people are safe from technology related ignorance.

A Bavarian man was given a persuasive lesson in the fallibility of technology Thursday night when he crashed into another car and injured an 11-year-old boy after obeying his car navigation device’s command to turn around on a divided autobahn.

Amazingly, the man, 45, took a U-turn on the divided motorway and began driving down the wrong side because the satellite navigation computer told him to turn around, police said in a statement.

Read it Here

Strange as it may sound, there is no replacement for using one’s eyes to aid in the operation of motor vehicles or heavy machinery.

The teen, who had two juveniles in the car with him in violation of the state’s graduated license rules, was headed westbound on Route 33 in his Ford Mustang when, he told police, his GPS told him to make a left turn onto Sweetmans Lane, police said.

The 17-year-old cut across the eastbound lanes of Route 33 and struck a vehicle on the left side at about 7:50 p.m. Saturday, according to police. The impact turned that car around 180 degrees before it came to rest facing oncoming traffic. The driver of that vehicle was taken to an area hospital after complaining of neck pain.

A third car struck the rear bumper of the Mustang, pushing that car into a spin before it too came to rest facing the eastbound oncoming traffic. A fourth vehicle traveling in the eastbound lanes swerved left to avoid the multiple car accident scene, when that car struck the curbed median, damaging both right-side tires, and rolling into the westbound lanes before coming to a stop.

The 17-year-old driver, from the Morganville section of Marlboro, was issued motor vehicle summonses for careless driving, making an improper turn and violating the terms of his provisional driver’s license.

 Read it Here

Of course, we expect poor judgment from young drivers so this is perhaps not the best example of GPS Induced Stupidity. You can view disturbing statistics related to young drivers here.

Three young women escaped the sinking Mercedes-Benz SUV after the vehicle’s GPS directed them down a boat launch and into the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, Washington.

The driver thought she was on a road while following her GPS unit just after midnight, but she was actually heading down the boat launch. All three women made out safely, but the SUV was completely under water. Officials said the three were in town for a conference and were trying to get to a hotel in Bellevue.

“They were trying to re-route their path and found this boat launch near the entrance to I-90 in South Bellevue and just kept driving into the water,” Mr Keenan said.

Read it Here

760px-Conformity_Hazard

As amusing as these stories are they may speak to something larger about Human nature in terms of technology. Perhaps there is a natural expectation that technology will someday alleviate most of the ‘burdens’ people experience in their daily lives.  Even if this were the case such a thing is surely far into the future.

Only you as an individual can truly be responsible for your own safety, but when others fall prey to over reliance on technology or mere stupidity you may find that there is only so much you can do to prevent the consequences of GPS Induced Stupidity.

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2 Responses to Your Smart Device is Making You Weird: GPS Induced Stupidity

  1. Artson October 30, 2011 at 5:39 PM #

    Human stupidity abounds, it’s the one commodity in the universe not affected by entropy. The supply will never depreciate. I have a GPS unit in my CUV and it does tend to reinforce the isolation of the driver from the world. Add in sound proofing, music, poor visibility and total air-conditioned comfort and the driver’s situational awareness is strongly degraded.

    Often, car designers are responsible for a good part of this awareness degradation, by cutting visibility in favour of style. So it goes. There is one final solution to human stupidity: if shown early enough, it doesn’t get bred into the next generation.

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