Do You Trust Google Maps to Get You There?

Mystery roads, the slowest routes and how to drive from China to Japan

I’m often overwhelmed by technology. The rate at which it changes makes my head spin. I can’t seem to get the hang of my cell phone apps before they add new ones. We have iPads and e-readers, online banking and shopping, cell phones that do everything except cook dinner; and yet, I am wary of trusting my life to a gadget. In fact, I’m always amazed at the level of trust and blind faith people put into technology. [SIGNUP]

Take GPS for example. How many times have you plugged in an address only to find that Garmin wants you to get there the wrong way, or the long way at any rate? My GPS will tell me to go to the expressway via Stony Lane. There has been no Stony Lane between my home and the expressway as long as long as I’ve lived here, about 20 years. There used to be a Stony Lane there, many years ago, probably before the expressway, but there’s none now. My husband was on a road trip once and it was taking him forever. He called me screaming about the damn GPS. I told him to pull over and check the options. Sure enough the option for major roads had been unchecked. Welcome to the scenic route. While GPS can be a lifesaver, I’ve learned to preview the entire route before the car drives me off a cliff.

Merging onto I-476 recently, I had a real “are you kidding me?” moment. There’s a new traffic metering light at the end of the onramp, placed there to regulate traffic moving onto the highway. The thing is like the Rain Man of electronics: redgreenredgreenredgreen. Approaching the psychotic light, the cars brakegobrakegobrakego. See what I mean: Are you kidding me? Maybe the thing was designed wrong or maybe the engineers just think we’re all idiots or maybe someone programmed it incorrectly. Maybe there’s a camera on top, like the laptops at Harriton, and there’s some PENNDOT guy laughing his ass off in an office somewhere. I ignore it and merge into traffic, knowing full well that there’s no way a cop could tell if I did the brakegobrakego thing anyway. There’s probably not even a citation code for that. No, best to just ignore it.

I read in the paper recently about the general in Nicaragua who moved his troops into Costa Rica based on information he retrieved from Google Maps. Apparently Google said the border was one place when really it was in another. International détente is involved, and everyone is standing their ground, especially Nicaragua since Costa Rica has no army to speak of. While they may be geographically challenged, at least the eggheads at Google have a sense of humor. Plug in a request for driving directions from China to Japan (yea, I know, you can’t drive from China to Japan but go ahead and plug it in) and get a giggle out of number 42.

If only those guys worked for PENNDOT.