How (and Why) GPS Directions Lead You Astray

GPS apps and portable navigation devices often provide unbearably bone-headed, and sometimes dangerous, directions. GPS experts explain how the technology works, offer reasons why GPS leads you astray, and share insight on how technology could improve in the future.

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The Future of GPS

An increase in the use of crowdsourced data, obtained from GPS apps on smartphones or from PNDs, will help make navigation more efficient in the future, according to both Quin and Strand. 

"We have only scratched the surface of what GPS navigation can deliver," says Quin. "The evolution won't come so much from features but from analytics, of really having a deeper understanding of where you drive, how you drive, the average speed of the roads you take." 

[Related: Top 15 GPS Apps and Devices for Travel]

The "big data" associated with collective driving histories will have a positive impact on delivering the most efficient routing. However, the real question may be whether drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and others will be willing to share their comings and goings with "Big Brother."

Privacy concerns are a real concern and a possible impediment in the path toward more efficient GPS driving directions, according to Quin. "The public has been wary of anyone knowing anything about where they are, and you need to get their approval to monitor their car speed and location," Quin says, even though that data is supposedly anonymous.

Younger drivers are less concerned about the privacy aspect of data collection than older drivers, according to Strand. The popular Waze navigation app, which crowdsources current traffic conditions and road hazards, is helping people become more comfortable with sharing location information, he says.

Though technology will continue to evolve, according to Strand, "users are the key to getting better directions in the future."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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