The last holdouts — cab drivers — are increasingly adopting the technology.
I am all for these discussions, they are important, but I’m not sure that this isn’t a Luddite expression of a wish for things of the past. I’m sure people said the same thing about the car. When you are on your horse, you can breathe in the fresh air, you are in tune with nature and your environment, you can tip your hat and exchange conversation, polite or otherwise with strangers.
But how about some other thoughts. With navigation, I get the fastest route to where I’m going because that’s where I’m going to do my socializing, my work, enjoy the roses. I can avoid the worst traffic that the city planners didn’t foresee when we did away with the horse and cart.
I can avoid the person in the 6 berth motor home who has never driven anything that big before, let alone with a map book on the steering wheel as he crosses into my lane looking for a street sign or a landmark.I don’t get stuck driving in circles because I couldn’t find a street sign on a one-way urban road network, making me late and stressed and distracted so that I am now myself at risk of being the cause of an accident.
Personally I don’t like asking for directions. Often the people I used to ask didn’t know how to get to my destination themselves or have the spatial awareness of how to navigate. I would argue that isn’t so much a skill that we have lost, but more one that many of us (not myself of course) never hard to start with.
As to taxi drivers, in many parts of the world they do know where they are going, but then as you’ll find often when you visit a city like Wellington, New Zealand, if you arrive from the airport to go into town, or in Sydney wanting to go to the North Shore, the taxi drivers know where they are going alright, but if you show that you don’t, there is a 50:50 chance they will take you the long, or the congested way, by asking you which way you want to go. Where I live, taxis have been deregulated and a lot of the cheaper taxis will happily take you the long way, which is one of the arguments for a service like Uber (or prepaid fares), that if you have an agreed fare, they will take you the quickest way. My GPS helps me keep the cabbie honest.
My GPS tells me where to find petrol, I no longer have that nagging feeling about whether I should have stopped at that last gas station, should I go back? My map book and spatial awareness was never able to tell me that I was going to run out of gas, how much gas I have available to the next destination and where the next petrol station on my route was.
I still know where north is and what direction my destination is in. I have a choice of routes, I can even randomly go in different directions and explore, anywhere in the world, knowing that my GPS will help me find my way to where I want to be.
There was a time that I felt I needed to walk in concentric circles from my hotel in a strange city, in a strange country. When I got my first GPS, I was able to go explore cities like London and Paris, jump on the Metro and hop off when I felt like it, knowing it would be easy to use my GPS power Smartphone to find my way back. I have the choice and the freedom without the stress.
If it all fails, I can still ask for directions, catch a cab or use Uber (who are typically locals and often want to be a tour guide). Of course the beauty of all this technology is that we can opt out of it if and when we want to. Even the geekiest of us still frequently do that.