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How GPS has made getting lost nearly impossible and driving less adventurous

By Rigval on 02 Jan 2010

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I recently posted something about Saab going extinct and that there won’t be any detrimental side effects to any of us (except Saab owners). No volcanoes are going to erupt in Jurong, no meteors will strike Earth, no aliens will destroy the White House and no one is going to jump over a barricade and rugby tackle the Pope again. The thing that I predict going extinct is getting lost when you are driving a car to a destination.

This leads me to the Global Positioning System or GPS which most of us have in our cars. The GPS is a system if you car enthusiasts out there have no clue of what is it about is a positioning, navigation, and timing services to worldwide users on a continuous basis in all weather, day and night, anywhere on or near the Earth. What started out as a United States of America military application was made public during the Reagan administration after pilots of the ill fated Korean Airlines flight 007 who were too busy chatting up stewardesses or playing tic tac toe in the cockpit failed to realize that they were miles inside Russian airspace and that missiles were being fired at them. This resulted in a demonstration that even Russian missiles are not as unreliable as the Americans thought. Now in the last few years, GPS as a navigation tool in cars is making inroads throughout South East Asia, whether we like it or not.

It may seem that this writer isn’t too pleased with GPS being made available to all. Actually GPS is a good thing to have. It allows people with bad sense of direction to actually reach where they are going. It also allows others to arrive sooner at a certain destination by plotting out the best routes for them to take. The only drawbacks I see is that here in Malaysia, (less in Singapore as mapping out an island is much easier) it still is pretty wonky. A friend of mine who depended on the GPS’ soulless female voice directing him to turn right somewhere along the New Pantai Expressway (NPE) actually followed the directions which made him miss the junction he meant to take. The GPS did not mention that he needed to actually keep left before turning right. This wasn’t as bad as what I remember reading about a decade ago when the system was first introduced in the United Kingdom. A lady followed exact instructions had actually followed a lane strictly meant for 4X4s, especially during the wet seasons as the lane actually crosses path with a stream which rises to about a meter and a half. She didn’t pay attention to the road signs, just purely paying attention to the GPS. I’ve even read people driving into walls, rivers and over cliffs due to faulty GPS maps.

That being said, I still don’t own a GPS as I still think it’s in its infancy here in Malaysia and I’m willing to wait. Not to mention that if one were to pay a little more attention to the surroundings; it’s quite hard to get lost. But what people actually lose out is the beauty of getting lost. This is the thing that GPS does not allow us to do so anymore.

Remember those horror movies that we’ve watch where a few people make the mistake of making a wrong turn and ending up at a town filled with vampires, axe murderers or serial killers? Well, with GPS such movies will never exist anymore. No one will ever get lost. These vampires, axe murderers and serial killers would starve or resort to cannibalism as no one would actually accidentally end up in their town. If you wanted to drive from Changi to say, Mersing in Johor and then onwards to Taiping, Perak using only B-roads, you’ll never get lost with a GPS. Maybe you may have to listen to some soulless female voice but you’ll never get lost. However, not getting lost might mean that you’ll never experience stopping at some small village and finding out that the small kopitiam there makes the tastiest assam laksa in the world. Or that the town has a shop that sells exquisite handicraft. Or that the cakes and scones are exquisite. Or that the scenery is fantastic. The complete usage of GPS would make finding slightly magical moments like these impossible to do so anymore. Nothing is left to chance. Nothing is spontaneous in a road trip anymore.

Of course the benefits of GPS outweigh this point. But sometimes getting truly lost makes you feel alive. It makes you have a tale to tell others. For those with the adventurous spirit, sometimes it’s better to put that GPS away for a while. For those that are afraid that they’ll be meat for some axe murderer, you better stick with using it.

GPS, getting lost, car driving and 1 more...

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Written by Rigval
Born in 1972. Married with a kid. Loves B-road drives and have driven cars from the 1950s to date.

  • 1
Parkingidiot Jan 02 2010 10:46 PM
With or without GPS, still can meet the axe murderers, car jackers and rapists in Malaysia. No need to travel on some ulu B road, just park along any road in JB and come back after a few mins to find your car broken into, or missing altogether. The vampires and ghouls are much alive here in Malaysia, truly Asia.
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