Monday, December 19, 2011

Trusting technology

As an engineer I have a healthy respect for technology coupled with a great deal of cynicism with regard to what it can do and where it can go wrong. Take satnavs for instance, great if they work, but there are a worrying number of cases where people have been killed or injured by following the instructions given to the letter and ended up driving down the wrong way on a dual carriageway. Use of common (or what seems to be not so common) sense is a requirement. If anything they just increase the probability of someone getting it wrong, though a lot of people don't really need technology to help with that when out driving.
Express.

MOTORISTS are turning back to traditional maps because satnavs are so unreliable.
A third say they have become lost while using a satnav and no longer trust them to help get them to their destination.
And 81 per cent in a survey said they preferred to find their own way, if necessary using traditional maps, rather than rely on the hi-tech navigation gadgets.
They also said they became frustrated over the complexity of satnavs and preferred to listen to music or the radio rather than to their satnav’s voice instructions.
Many also complained they do not always find the most direct route.
Research by Kia Motors found that around four in 10 drivers will clock up an additional four hours of driving to visit relatives over the festive season.
But only 21 per cent said they would not need help with directions to get them to their destination.
Speaking as someone who drove all over the South-East in a previous job without the aid of a satnav and just a series of A to Z's roadmaps I can see their point, though reading one whilst on the move is not recommended. Any technology is only as good as its programming and many peoples idea of what's best or what works doesn't seem to quite fit in with what the satnav programmer's ideas are, that's of course assuming they have the right data programmed in the device in the first place, I passed a turn off up near the Scottish Border which has a hand made sign stating that they live on a private no-through road no matter what your satnav says. Nor will the same program be suitable for cars and lorries as many a trucker stuck under a low bridge will tell you.
Guess I'm just old fashioned, I like to plan my route out in advance using a map book and/or an online aid, I still don't trust technology to run my life, for all I use and fix it when at work. I doubt I'll ever get a satnav, I don't enjoy prattle when driving, the exception being my good Lady and I doubt she'd care for me calling her conversations prattle either. It comes down to trust in the end, I don't trust satnavs as useful as they might be, simply because the roads and conditions change and I'm damned if I'll let a machine tell me what to do, hence also my disdain for auto exchanges when dialing a company, I prefer to deal with people.
A lot of engineers are like me, perhaps it's because they deal with machines and technology day in day out.

3 annotations:

microdave said...

"And preferred to listen to music or the radio rather than to their satnav’s voice instructions."

Precisely the reason I will not use self service checkouts at supermarkets. If I'm going to be told off, I prefer it to be done by a real human being...

"Guess I'm just old fashioned, I like to plan my route out in advance using a map book and/or an online aid"

Same here.

"A lot of engineers are like me, perhaps it's because they deal with machines and technology day in day out."

KISS: "Keep It Simple Stupid"

Barman said...

Used sensibly they can be an amazing tool..

I wouldn't be without mine.

Able said...

I'm ashamed to admit to being a bit of a geek. I ended up changing that dreary monotone 'out of the box' voice for.. Yoda on my satnav (I claim it's because my son likes Star Wars but really it's because I crack up being told to 'take the next left, you will, I feel a disturbance in the force' - hey, at least I'm harmless, mostly). I admit that I always have a 'dead-tree' hardcopy map too though.

Being a stereotypical male (having difficulty asking directions - 'I'm not lost, just geographically challenged') I tend to follow the Dirk Gently (Douglas Adams) method of navigation - that is:

When lost, do not ask for directions or check a map, simply follow someone who 'looks like they know where they're going', you may not get to where you want to be, but you always get to somewhere interesting, even if it's someones drive (you even get asked in for tea sometimes).