Friday, May 16, 2008

Feeble GPS:

If you're driving through a long tunnel, and your car sports a modern GPS, why, then that GPS will be happy to draw a picture for you, to show you that you're under a great body of water. I've just completed my first serious immersion in GPS-life, driving 700 miles in a rental car over roads familiar and unknown. I have an awful lot of impressions to sort out, such as the fact that I hate to be told to "drive straight in 1.8 miles" while trying to hear an audio book.

But here's what you should bear in mind about today's driver-GPS systems: They are feeble inventions of great ingenuity. In the future, we'll look back at them, and we'll laugh.

A GPS ought to be tightly- coupled with its automobile. Many quirks of its user interface derive from the GPS computer having so little idea of, or knowledge of, what's going on. The next time your'e bored, imagine what a GPS would be like if it had these capabilites:
  • It would know your location to within an accuracy of one foot; it would know if you were in the correct lane.
  • It would monitor the turn signals; it would know if you intended to make a turn as instructed.
  • It would be able to operate the turn signals for you, if you preferred not to signal manually.
  • It could advise you when to brake, or that you're going too fast, given the curviness of the road.
  • It would know whether you had enough gas to reach your destination, so it would know when to direct you to a price-competitive gas station.
  • My GPS asked me whether I wanted the shortest route, the route with the most super highways, or the route with the least super highways. Over time, this list of alternatives will expand to include choices of familiar/unfamilar routes, fuel-efficient routes, and (I think some high end systems have these): routes to avoid bad weather, construction, or traffic jams.
  • A GPS that knows the weather and the traffic can tell me when it's advisable to turn cruise control on and off.

I believe there are already GPS systems that handle audio input. This business of pressing buttons to slo- ... -wly program an address is ridiculous. My GPS warned me not to program it while driving. It then required me to press several buttons (while driving) to confirm I was resuming the last driving plan. GPS systems that take weather and construction schedules into account can do something else that's rather clever: they can suggest what time of day I should start driving, for best time and weather. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Today's GPS developers have been ingenious, doing so much with so little. But what we're enjoying is only a primitive new technology.
Post a Comment