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Are Smart GPSs Really Smart Yet? - I'm Dreaming

mike rivers 0 Points
edited April 2014 in GPS Recommendations
About six months ago, I was here pondering getting a new GPS to replace my 5 or so year old TomTom XL. While the last software update helped its pronunciation somewhat, I want more, more, more.

I travel the Northeast between Washington and New York or New England a few times a year and for the last couple of years, no matter which route I take, I never have a trip that isn't clogged in two or three spots, turning what the GPS thinks is a 7 hour trip into a 9 hour trip. One problem is that it doesn't seem to know that there's such a thing as rush hour. You'd think that "IQ Routes" should at least know about that, but on a drive this long, unless I leave at 10 PM or so I can't avoid rush hour somewhere along the way. Although a static GPS like mine can't know about accidents or construction, a "connected" GPS certainly could, but do they? And assuming that the capability exists, is there data that's sufficiently real time to be of value?

I'm dreaming of a GPS that, when it learns about an obstruction (accident, construction, or just heavy traffic at that time of the day) will tell me how to get around it. I want it to tell me:

1. It's re-routing me because it learned that something isn't normal
2. Tells me where to get off the highway and how to get around the blockage
3. Knows when I've passed the obstruction and,
4. Tells me how to get back on to the highway and up to speed again.

Since I'm usually traveling by myself, it has to be able to do that without a bunch of manipulations on my part. I don't want to have to pull over on to the shoulder in order to fiddle with the "alternate route" or "avoid roadblock" options.

Is there any hope? Seems like the technology should be there, but I get the sense that stand-alone GPSs are becoming dinosaurs and that development efforts have, or will be concentrated in making smart phones smarter GPSs.

I used to be able to send a route from Map Quest or maybe it was Google Maps to my TomTom several years ago but they two don't seem to talk together any more. I'm tempted to look into a Garmin since apparently you can load in a route from Map Quest. At least there you can see warnings about construction and, with a few days' study before the trip, figure out which ones would be best to bypass and how to do it, so that route with work-arounds could be loaded into the GPS. Does anyone do that, and does it work out in practice? I don't mind going 25 MPH through a town to avoid 2 miles of stop-to-10 MPH driving on a 65 MPH Interstate.

Or maybe I should just get a travel partner and a map?


  • privet01 228 Points
    A map for certain . I don't think I'll ever see a route planning tool whether it is on a GPS or a website or pc/mac software that will ever route me the way I want to go.
  • Well, I'd like it to be easier than it is for me to tell it how I want to go. It's really a fight to use the tools on the GPS that I presently have in order to go another route. Sometimes I can get away with putting another city in between where I'm starting and where I want to go, but even then it might take me on a detour through the middle of the city rather than around it.

    It would also be nice if the GPS would learn how I want to go when I repeatedly take a different route than it wants to take me over the same course, like for instance when I go from my house out to the main drag. I know where it's easier to turn better than "Dave" does.

  • sussamb 829 Points
    edited April 2014
    Garmins myTrends is meant to do that. Personally if I know where I want to go I just ignore my GPS :-)

    It soon catches up.
  • The "myTrends" sounds like it might be worth looking into. Maybe it has some other smarts that I'd find useful. It takes two taps in the right places to turn off the sound on my TomTom, but that's usually what I do when I'm navigating on my own but want the GPS to help me when I get close.

  • Boyd 1999 Points
    edited April 2014
    IMO, myTrends goes beyond being useless and is just annoying. The idea of learning your preferred routes is a good one, and it works to at least some extent. But that isn't all it does.

    Based on your travel history, it "suggests" places that you might want to go as you drive around. I don't need a GPS to do that for me. On my way to work in the morning, it would keep suggesting that I go back home for the first 15 minutes or so. That was tempting, but not what I wanted to do. ;)

    It uses your favorites (saved places) and tries to determine which of them you might want to go to. I turned it off after about a week and never tried it again.
    like for instance when I go from my house out to the main drag. I know where it's easier to turn better than "Dave" does.
    Well then, just go the way you want. The GPS is just a tool, you don't have to mindlessly do whatever it tells you. Maybe I'm different? I start from the assumption that I'm smarter than the GPS. And do you really need a GPS to get from your house to the main road? :)
  • Suggesting where (off the planned route) I might want to go would indeed be a pain. And, no, I don't need a GPS to get from my house to the main road, but I'm inclined to set it up before I leave home. If I remember, I'll turn off the sound until I need it, but I'm old enough to need a GPS since I don't remember directions very well any more so I don't always remember to shut it up before I need it.

    What I do want, though, is for those occasions like being in a traffic jam on a highway 200 or 2000 miles away from home where I have no idea where I'll be if I get off the road,. That's when I want a GPS to give me the best course to get around the blockage and get to the highway where things are back up to speed. That's where the smarts, as well as access to real time information, comes in when designing my dream GPS.
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    edited April 2014
    Most of the time I just use my GPS as a "moving map" that shows my position. So really, I'm navigating like I did with a paper map in the past, with the advantage of knowing where I am. I got around pretty will with a paper map for the first 40 years that I drove.

    Now if I'm driving on a confusing highway where you need to get into the right lane or else miss your exit, then I find routing information helpful. But my GPS is always on mute. I look at the screen if I need guidance. Nothing annoys me more than a stupid computer voice telling me what to do. ;)

    Here's a good article about how GPS devices are dumbing us down.
    Being able to interpret the three-dimensional world around us and to use that information to solve problems is an often-overlooked skill, says Tufts psychologist Holly Taylor.

    People use GPS because they feel they’ll navigate more efficiently, and they see it as a security blanket, to some extent. What we found is that only very early on when navigating from point to point to point in an unfamiliar environment did people with the navigational aid do better than people without it. Very quickly, the people without the navigational aid seemed to learn the environment and navigate just as efficiently as those with the GPS.

    But people who had the navigational aid had significantly worse memory about what was around them. And this was on multiple different measures, such as pointing from one landmark to another or drawing a map of the environment.
    But, having said this, I do understand where you're coming from and what you want. I think a smartphone or tablet is going to be your best choice. For one thing, the routing information comes from powerful servers that can consider many more options than the wimpy little CPU's in a dedicated GPS. And they have access to realtime traffic info and map updates. Since the phone or tablet is just a platform, you have a choice of many different apps with new ones becoming available constantly instead of being locked into one company's dedicated device.
  • Oh, for sure I feel "dummed down." When I navigated from written directions, after a few trips to the same place, I no longer needed the directions. When I started using the GPS, I stopped learning where things were and stopped feeling confident that I could get there without the GPS. These days, however, I make fewer trips to the same places, and the GPS is just so darn convenient, as long as it doesn't get lost.

    I have an Android tablet, and have recently discovered that there are navigation apps that store maps locally (like a real GPS) and don't depend on being able to download maps on the fly. I might give one of those a try for the heck of it. But like most Internet reviews, half of them (for any given app) love it and the other half say it doesn't work.
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    I have an Android tablet, and have recently discovered that there are navigation apps that store maps locally (like a real GPS)
    Oh sure. I have used both the Navigon and Garmin StreetPilot apps on my iPhone and they store the maps locally. But based on what you've said earlier, that may never give you what you want.

    Because of limited CPU power, a self contained system can't evaluate as many different routing options as a powerful server in a datacenter. And when a new highway opens tomorrow (at least theoretically), it will appear on the map. That same highway may not appear on your locally-stored map for another 6 to 12 months.
  • Zemartelo 207 Points
    IMO, myTrends goes beyond being useless and is just annoying. The idea of learning your preferred routes is a good one, and it works to at least some extent. But that isn't all it does.
    Mytrends is probably a difficult feature to implement. How can a GPS know where you want to go?
    I dont know how sophisticated it is in the Nuvi's but it would have to take into account the roads being used, the time of the day, etc... Just because your driving the same road on your way to work doesnt mean you are going to work... but if you are driving on this road every morning at 9am then chances are you are going to work... :)

    My grip with the feature on my 2597 is that it does display on the top bar the favorite name (Work) and the distance to it, but I have to touch the unit to activate the route. And it requires two touches. One to click on the bar and then it opens the routes screen and then click on the prefered route. Why not just have one click and automatically select the desired route in prefs?

    Or if no action is taken in a determined amount of time then go away.

    And even worse no option to activate it with voice command. :(

  • Zemartelo 207 Points

    Here's a good article about how GPS devices are dumbing us down.
    This is why up to date maps are so important imo. 3 month maps updates are good but having the community provide map corrections would be better imo.

    We dont need a GPS to drive to same place we drive everyday but I everyday I activate that route on my GPS hoping that it will learn my driving habits and will route better.
    I try it when new maps are available. Maybe theres a new road that I dont know about, maybe theres a more efficient way to drive to work.

    And the GPS for me is super important when I drive to places that I am unfamiliar with and why having updated maps is crucial.

  • Flyboybobby 81 Points
    edited May 2014
    My old GPS didn't have traffic capability and I only used it to find new places locally and when I traveled by air to strange cities and rented cars. My Nuvi 2555LMT has lifetime traffic and I use it everyday going to and from work to keep me abreast of the traffic delays. Of course the delays usually happen in the same places daily, but it's nice to know how much time is being added to the trip because of the delay rather than just getting frustrated about being late. I'm amazed that most traffic tie ups only add two or three minutes to the trip. Of course starting your trip earlier rather than later doesn't hurt. Also, garbage in equals garbage out. If you put in the wrong destination you will arrive at the wrong place. All navigation computers are stupid.

    The airlines have been navigating with GPS for years and the FAA is planning to replace the entire ground based navigation system totally with satellite navigation by 2020. Airline pilots don't enter their routes into their Flight Mamagemet Units, very expensive GPS systems, any longer. The flight plans are entered via data link directly from the dispatch computers because human pilots were entering erronous information because of digital errors, digits meaning their fingers. Whenever I use GPS I back it up with a map and common sense. Remember what President Reagan said, trust but verify.

    It's a tool not a replacememt for your brain.
  • Thanks for the continued discussion. Even if I'm someplace unfamiliar, as long as I'm on streets, I can usually find my way around a traffic jam. My biggest problem is on freeways and Interstate roads where either there's a known constriction (lane closed for construction over a known period, for example) or something temporary (an accident). Those are things that the GPS can't store, it needs to learn about as we go along. And I don't want it to tell me to get off at Exit 18 when I've just passed Exit 18. Maybe some day information will be sufficiently real time so that can happen, like if my GPS could talk to a GPS a mile ahead.
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