You are smarter than your GPS!

Oh yes you are!

In practice, you have to be—because you are the human and it is just a brick of plastic and silicon. Generally, you can trust your computer devices but, when your life depends on them, ’tis probably a better idea to use your own senses—and question everything you are being told.

Not the least of which is your GPS! We’ve all heard the stories of some moron who “turned left”—right into a lake (and there was that one woman who, literally, drove off a bridge)—because their GPS told them to!

Glitchy.

I have personally experienced some strange commands from the little voice guiding me through the fray—sending me the wrong way on a one-way street, advising me to drive in circles, telling me to turn left when there is no left and, the most dangerous one, guiding me off the side of a mountain! Needless to say, I did not comply with any of those “suggestions.”

The technology is better now; my first GPS used to get indignant with me when I wouldn’t do what she said (“you missed the turn!“). Well, I got rid of that little bitch pretty quickly (you have to make me dinner before you’re allowed to treat me like that)! But, after all, it’s a complicated process performed in real time and subject to some glitches along the way.

It’s brilliant, really.

The GPS constellation is a network of 24 operational orbiting satellites (with more outdated and others in reserve)—operated by the U.S. Air Force from Los Angeles—each circling the planet every twelve hours, each sending out a time code so precise that your GPS can triangulate where it is using the difference between four to seven satellite signals (the Doppler effect).

There have been four generations of systems, all advancing the technology to the next level by leaps and bounds. Originally created for the military—and much more accurate for them (within a few inches)—your GPS is accurate down to a few dozen feet (not bad, really). The data allows your device to determine location (latitude, longitude), heading, altitude and speed. My GPS smartphone app warns me when I am exceeding the speed limit!

My personal rule Number ONE.

Whether it’s a person with me in the car or a GPS box on the dashboard, I have a rule that I never break: NO last-second driving decisions. That, my friend, is what attracts the attention of police officers like no other. So, we’re going straight when that happens and you are getting a lecture about being an idiot for not giving me a reasonable distance warning before we had to turn!

I tell you this rule because I have found most bad GPS commands come at the last second. And that’s when you ignore them! Unless you’re late for your own funeral, I recommend that you ignore last-second directions too.

Let’s Google that!

Have you tried using the Google Maps app for your GPS? I have found it to be quite good—and you can also download maps for the area you will be driving through to save on data usage. The only caveat here is, you must initiate the trip while connected to the internet. Once you’ve started—and it knows what to do—losing your connection will go unnoticed by you.

It works very well with your voice commands if you use the proper syntax, which is “Okay Google, take me to (destination).”

Although I don’t always use my GPS to find my way, I have discovered that I really like having a map displaying the roadway ahead of me to judge upcoming curves and turns before being presented to me in real life. This came in extremely useful when I was camping in the Mendocino National Forest and driving on twisting mountain roads.

Happy trails my friends!