The global positioning system, aka GPS. August 2009, the Sacramento Bee reported, a woman was found alive on in Death Valley, on a remote back road.her six-year-old son sitting dead in the car beside her. She had followed her car’s GPS navigational system down a road. The GPS program had determined it was the shortest route between two points of travel. It was indeed, though the road was barely a track and was unsuited for most vehicles. Some GPS databases, point to roads that have not been open for more than 40 years, while others cannot distinguish between a trail and a superhighway. Several winters ago, a woman was stranded for three days on a logging road in New Brunswick when her car’s navigational device pointed her down that impassable way. “Experts say New Brunswick poses a particular problem for the GPS because the province has so many dirt roads.” The errors lies not with GPS technology itself, though that technology is indeed vulnerable to unforeseeable phenomena such as surges in sunspot activity, as well as interference from landforms, electronic signals, building materials, and the like. Instead, the problem generally lies with the various interpretations that overlie that technology in the form of those map databases, graphic interfaces, and so forth. There is also the fact that altogether too many users of the technology are overly reliant on it: too many cannot read a map to save their lives (as reading a map so often does), too many sally forth into difficult terrain assuming that technology alone will somehow keep them safe—and that somehow technology owes them this safety.
Manufacturers of navigational devices note that all databases contain errors, and therefore insist that their products are to be used as “navigational aids” only