Submitted for your edification and approval, this article from The Smithsonian Magazine:
If we are, in fact, ditching the map for flashier gear, will we be better off? Maybe not. A study
conducted in Tokyo found that pedestrians exploring a city with the
help of a GPS device took longer to get places, made more errors,
stopped more frequently and walked farther than those relying on paper
maps. And in England, map sales dropped by 25 percent
for at least one major printer between 2005 and 2011. Correlation
doesn’t prove causation—but it’s interesting to note that the number of
wilderness rescues increased by more than 50 percent over the same time
period. This could be partly because paper maps offer those who use them
a grasp of geography and an understanding of their environment that
most electronic devices don’t.
We've all heard or read of people who slavishly follow their GPS while it leads them into deserts, mountains, and even lakes, sometimes with fatal consequences. This isn't to suggest that people never got lost before GPS technology, but I do wonder whether many are not relying too heavily on the devices and letting common sense lapse.
I've yet to break down and get one for the car, relying instead on a trusty DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer for most of my navigational needs 'round these parts. And, as I once opined, I'm quite comfortable heading down the road "with nothing but a star and an oil company map to steer by." That's not really a Luddite's lament; I'll happily use electronic maps when the need arises, but I don't travel often enough to unfamiliar areas to really need a specific device for navigation. OTOH, I will admit to being somewhat wary of the turn-by-turn GPS units, and e-maps in general: several times either one has been just plain wrong with the location of a road or it decided on routes so circuitous that I really wondered if it had any clue what it was doing. Mostly, I put this down to an over-exuberance on the part of designers to get maps out with something -- anything! -- on them, whereas the slower pace of paper-map making would, I think, tend to persuade mapmakers get something right before committing it to paper. Of course, it's also far easier to update an electronic map, so there's an advantage of the new devices right there.
Still, part of that article resonates with me: knowing the general area you are navigating through rather than just the narrow route your GPS takes you through, for example. I find it quite satisfying to get to where I'm going with a combination of maps, experience, and sometimes just with by-guess-and-by-gosh dumb luck. It also, I think, makes one less prone to panic when making a wrong turn here or there, though I suppose knowing/assuming your GPS will get you back on track probably also has that effect. But I also have sort of a longer-term fear that road designers might end up getting sloppy with their signage once they think everybody's GPSing it around.
So, what do you readers think? Do you use GPS to navigate? Often? Has it ever led you astray? And, as always, feel free to discuss anything else auto-related.
Credit: The Far Side image from this site which laments other GPS-related incidents.