Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Device For The (Lost) Goons?

I have just started to use a GPS navigation device in my car.

To most people, Global Positioning System or GPS is analogous to mobile maps. In actual fact, its application is far more than that. In my case, it is a simple stand-alone device with interactive maps that guide me from one point to another.

The concept of GPS is rather complex. Put simply, a GPS navigation device times the signal it receives from satellites and based on information of time and distance from the satellites, it determines the device's location.

To me, the idea of having someone helping you to navigate while you drive is a comforting one. When Allan Peace wrote the book "Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps", he understood the predicament of my kind on the road.

I suppose women know that they are not born with a GPS navigation device while men think that theirs is the best.

I thought a GPS navigation device is especially helpful to woman drivers like me. But my elation was cruelly disrupted when I was reminded that Singapore is a compact, well-planned, tiny city state with less than 700 sq km of space. It is called "The Little Red Dot" precisely for that reason.

Why would one need a GPS to travel around in that small space? It is like getting lost and finding your way around in a closet!

So far, I have only tried it on familiar routes and it has worked pretty well. It guided me with brightly-colored maps and clearly audible instructions. When I failed to follow the suggested route, it would quickly recalculate my position and feed me with a refreshed instruction. Smart! It even warned me of traffic light camera at some road junctions.

I have yet to put it to test on new routes. I wonder if I would be confident of the guidance given by the little device. As of now, my good old street directory is still sitting in my car. Somehow, I have this feeling that it is not yet to be replaced.

I am using a device which is made in the US. It comes with text-to-speech functionality which means that the pre-recorded audible assistance in a female voice actually reads the street names. It can get pretty confusing when local street names are read in an American accent.

While it had no problem with names like "Orchard Road", it was sounding rather strange when it came to "Tanjong Katong Road". I swear I heard "ten junk cat tongue road". I need to get used to that.

It does not help when our road names and directions are full of abbreviations. It took me a while to know what the device was saying when ECP (East Coast Parkway) was read as 'epp'. I have yet to travel onto the PIE (Pan Island Expressway). I wonder if I would be asked to drive onto the 'pie'.

I will not say that it is totally useless and perhaps that is because I am a rather hopeless navigator myself. Some help is better than no help. However, many drivers sneer at such a device in Singapore because of its perceived limited usefulness.

So far, there are people who are rather impressed with my new device. To put things in perspective, these people don't drive and to them, it is nothing more than a clever (and at times amusing) interactive toy. None of the drivers I know is going gaga over it. One even retorted and said that GPS is actually a 'Goon People System'.

OK, I shall not feel insulted or deflated yet. Let me reserve my judgment on my newly acquired gadget. Everyone deserves a chance and so do untested gizmos.

You may have your say.

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1 comment:

Johnny Ong said...

i think its required in spore bcuz of so many straight roads with no turnings after that. one wrong turn will lead really off yr initial destination haha