The knowledge vs GPS

18 Dec 2007 | 305 words | london maps traffic urbanism gps

I have written about virtues of ‘the knowledge‘ and the dangers of GPS to human evolution before. Now the good old BBC is running an article that actually pits the one versus the other in some kind of technology versus humans death match. They held a race through London in which a cab driver (in possession of ‘the knowledge’) had to compete against a BBC hack who was following the instructions of a Tom Tom GO 720 navigation unit:

We chose waypoints that took us through extremely busy parts of London. We would need to go from Box Hill in Surrey to Wembley Stadium, then the Houses of Parliament and finish at Greenwich Observatory. In fact, if we had just followed the shortest route to our first waypoint – the new Wembley Stadium – we would have gone right through some of the worst traffic blackspots in the area.

The rules were simple. Andy the cabbie could choose whichever route he wanted, listen to traffic reports on the radio, and change route at any time. But so he did not get an unfair advantage, he was not allowed to use bus/taxi lanes to avoid any jams. I had to do what the sat-nav said. No exceptions.

The BBC’s Spencer Kelly won the first part of the race as a result of the GPS suggesting to take the M25 that bypasses London and managed to get to Wembley Stadium 5 minutes ahead of the Cab driver. The second leg, however was clearly won by the Cab driver who proved much more experienced in navigating through the highly congested city center and arrived at the Greenwich Observatory a full 27 minutes before the car following the sat-nav instructions. Guess this illustrates my point that relying on GPS for navigation is definitely going to be detrimental to humankind.