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Outsmarting my GPS

Have you ever cursed your GPS for sending you down a route that was clearly not the fastest.

I signed my daughter up for a camp in the next county on a college campus.  I needed to travel through rush hour traffic to get there.   I set my GPS for the fastest time and gave myself an additional half hour to get there.  The drop off instructions was particularly stressful because you had a half hour window to drop them off.  If you did not get them in that window, you had to call the director so they could pick them up.  You could not walk them to the camp.  I planned on being there at the start of the window so really I gave myself an hour to get there.

As I got closer to the campus I hit a lot of stop and go traffic.  Ugh.  I continued to trust my GPS to get me there on time.  On the last quarter mile to the campus I hit a left turn where the cars lined up at the light for a mile back.  It took me 20 minutes just to get through that turn.  I panicked.  It was 8:45 and I had one more turn to take.  Panic again, as it took me 10 minutes to get through the last light.  I was ready to cry.  As I drove up to the car loop, to my relief I saw several other cars getting there at the last minute.

I did not want a repeat of that morning, to hell with the GPS.  When I got home, I looked up on Google maps and mapquest.  Both had the same fastest route as my GPS.  Annoyed, I studied the map.  I created a route where I would avoid the the left turn that took 20 minutes.  That afternoon I took the route I laid out with the online maps.  It was similar to what the GPS had but I avoided the left turn.  To my chagrin, there was a road closure that neither the GPS, nor the online maps anticipated and yet I still made better time than earlier that morning.

That night I was determined to find the best route.  I was vaguely familiar with the area.  I used what little I knew and mapped out a route that I thought was less traveled.  It added a couple of minutes but I thought worth it.  I avoided my left turn.  I took roads that ran parallel to the bigger roads.  I had my route.

The next morning we left early again.  I brought my GPS, in case I got lost and off we went.  When my GPS told us to get off at an exit, we kept going.  When she told us to get off the next exit, we  kept going.  When I did get off the exit she still had another route for me.  I ignored her until she finally saw my way.  We arrived on campus early.  Woot Woot success!

I like my GPS, I’ve used her when I’ve gotten lost.  I use her when I don’t know an area but I have learned that mapping the old way is still a very useful skill.

So here’s my theory:
When a large group of people are heading to same area and plug into their GPS the fastest route, they all get the same or very similar route. If you are traveling under normal conditions, it would be the fastest route but if you are traveling when everyone else is traveling, say during rush hour, then it is no longer the fastest route.  The GPS today is not smart enough to find the best route during a these times.

I would love to hear your GPS story.


  1. GPS is a killer in this respect. It fools people into believing that fastest, means quickest. Without sounding stupid, is the fastest not simply the shortest with fastest road speeds, regardless of traffic. I don't think GPSs really know traffic conditions yet. They are not that smart. So, fastest means without traffic. But as you learnt, local knowledge beats fastest many times. One day the computers will have more info and fastest will include traffic. For now, it's a gamble :>

    1. Agreed. Our GPS has a traffic spotter along the route but it never seems to work too well. Another improvement I look forward to :)

  2. I was just going to say pretty much the same as Ashley did before me. I think GPS now calculates "fastest" based on the type of road (highway or not) and its speed limits. If mathematically it adds up the least time needed to get from A to B, then viola - it is given to you s fastest. Can't wait for GPS that tales into account traffic as well and have real time updates and all. I don;t like driving when i don't know where i am going but when i am in an area that i know well (or at least to some point), i never make plans where i will go through. I always monitor the traffic with my own eyes while driving and make decisions on the spot what exit to take and where to go through so i get there quickly. Thanks for the great post. I have to take a paper map for my car ;-)

  3. I could relate. There are many times I yell at my GPS. From what I understand, at least in my car, you can make settings to the fastest route, your can remove freeways, etc. I really am not techie savvy so whatever it is set for that is what I use. It took me awhile to understand some of the commands. On the bright side it has freed me to find places that I would normally get lost. However, there are some addresses that GPS has no idea where they are located.

  4. lol, yes, I've had some choice words for my GPS. And yes, I still brought my GPS with me on the trip as a safety net. And yes, maps are always updating and the GPS companies get ya because ours make you pay for the updates. Ugh.


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