GPS = Going Places Slowly
I was heading to Glen Arm from Morrell Park over the weekend using the Fort McHenry Tunnel when I came to the newly reconfigured, still-a-work-in-progress interchange of Interstate 95 and the Beltway. I decided to put my Garmin GPS system with the lovely feminine voice to the test. I suspended my own local knowledge and just followed her instruction to the letter.
Acting on her instruction, I got into the left lane headed toward New York. Wrong move. It made it impossible to get on the new, soaring overhead ramp that leads to the westbound Beltway. We ended up taking a detour via White Marsh Boulevard.
It was an illustration of something everyone who gets a GPS system should know: These systems are far from perfect. Not only will they lag behind the news of a reconfigured interchange, they have a host of quirks motorists need to look out for.
My Garmin system sometimes has a problem figuring out complicated interchanges and giving instructions in a timely manner. At certain key forks when a motorist faces a confusing choice, such as whether to take northbound U.S. 1 or Alternate U.S. 1 where they split near Relay, it has no advice to give. If you aren't a local, you're on you're own.
Then, there's its bias toward the straight line at the expense of the quickest route. Plot a course from Columbia to Parkville, and she's likely to take you through the heart of the city -- consistently underestimating the time lost to stop-and-go traffic. The same happens when you're returning to Baltimore from Annapolis: She wants you to take Route 2, when anyone with an ounce of local road savvy know Interstate 97 is faster.
When you travel with her through rural stretches such as central Pennsylvania, she's likely to pick out routes you would have never found on a state or national road map -- tiny, twisting farm roads you never knew were there. That's actually one of the cooler features as far as I'm concerned, but I wouldn't want to be directed onto those roads at night or in a snowstorm.
This critique is not a rejection of my GPS lady -- far from it. I think she's adorable -- even if her voice sounds exasperated when I make her repeat "recalculating" by rejecting her advice. There have been many times when she got me to unfamilar places without a hitch and without the distraction of having to read printed directions.
But if you use GPS, it's important to learn the system's idiosyncracies. Don't hesitate to go with your own local knowledge and override its advice. You're the boss. And your operating system is more sophisticated than hers.
Anyone out there have some interesting stories of GPS quirks to relate? Please do.