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GUI Transportation Technology

Are Sat-Nav Systems Becoming Information Overload? 186

curtS writes "The Economist's tech editor reviews the ever-more-detailed assistance of mobile GPS devices, and wonders if the attention-sucking visual complexity isn't more trouble than it's worth. He contrasts the simplicity of London's Underground map (not directionally accurate but visually easy to understand) and his own habit of dimming the display and using the audio commands for guidance."
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Are Sat-Nav Systems Becoming Information Overload?

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  • (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:34PM (#30423544)

    These system are helping me so much that there is a lot of space for trouble until it is more trouble than it's worth.

  • Headup display (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:41PM (#30423600)
    Why not a headsup display?

    My car's frontwindow angle is say 45.
    This allows me to just put my Android phone on my dashboard which reflects on the window and generates a transparent reflection which shows up in a "virtual distance" in my field of view.
    It's not as crisp to actually read while driving or being stuck in traffic and it requires low light conditions, though. But you can make up a map easily.

  • by BeardedChimp ( 1416531 ) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:52PM (#30423670)
    Reminds me of this. []
    "Since a road closure, dozens of drivers have blithely followed directions from their satellite navigation systems, not realising that the recommended route goes through the ford.
    Normally the water — the start of the River Avon — is about 2ft deep but it can swiftly double in depth after heavy rain.
    Every day since the main B4040 was closed after a wall collapsed on April 8 one or two motorists have been towed out, having either failed to notice or ignored warning signs. Some farmers have been charging £25 to give a tow with tractors."
  • by incognito84 ( 903401 ) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:52PM (#30423676)
    ...then you shouldn't have GPS. I have no problem looking at the GPS screen on my motorcycle for a split second, recognizing what I'm expected to do and then focusing back on the road again.

    Then again, my GPS display is very simple and I like it that way. I hate displays that are so complicated that you need to scan around the screen with your eyes for a few seconds to get your bearings. Those few seconds could make the difference between life and death.

    I think the real problem here, which is not being addressed, is the fact that most people watch TV on their GPS displays. That should be illegal.
  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @02:13PM (#30423826)
    Exactly. Plus things like "turn here" aren't that accurate on a GPS. Yeah, you might accurate within 300 feet, but if there are 2 roads you can turn in that distance, you might go down the wrong one.

    Also, this "study" fails to see that some people have passengers that can read/edit info on the GPS.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @02:22PM (#30423888)

    Handling multitasking is one of the hardest things that instrument pilots need to do in aircraft. There are a lot of different instruments, and if you get fixated on one of them you tend to fall out of the sky. This is often even worse than a car hitting an abutment. The thing that takes the most practice is "keeping the scan going" -- looking regularly from instrument to instrument, and never stopping. There are even different systems of scan, with different virtues in terms of what information is received most often. New aircraft GPS systems are now totally integrated with the rest of the instrumentation, and the displays are designed to make the most critical instruments almost impossible to miss. Plus, regular refreshers and reviews are required to be allowed to keep flying.

    But car drivers are allowed out there with minimal training and any old display, and they try to do all kinds of multitasking besides. As a pilot, if I could figure out how to fly everywhere and stay away from car drivers, I would. They're just too scary.

  • (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) * on Sunday December 13, 2009 @02:57PM (#30424102) Homepage Journal

    I would argue that. Rand McNally road atlases were my constant companion for years. It's hard to recall how my internal mapping and/or memory of Rand McNally evolved in the first couple years - but today, I can navigate anywhere on the North American continent (minus Mexico) without a map. I can leave my house, and go to any major city without referencing a map at all. Some small town, I don't know of? Ten minutes with that atlas, and I can drive to it without looking again. To find an address, I'll check the map just short of the city.

    Those GPS things? Personally, I don't like them - they want to hold your hand all the way across the continent. Every turn, every fuel stop, every restaurant. When I travel, I want to make the decisions, not have MapQuest, or anyone else decide which ramp to exit or enter the interstate on. Travel is supposed to be an adventure - let me decide when, where, and how.

    For fun, I've gone off route many times, just to see new country. I've seen mountains, valleys, and rivers that few Americans ever thought about seeing, because I took the less beaten path, down country roads. And, food. Fast Food Americana just sucks. I went north into Tennessee one early one morning, topped a small mountain, and found a hole in the wall restaurant. I got a real southern breakfast, for half the price of any chain restaurant, and 45 minutes of chat from some old dude who looked like he might have served in the Civil War. (He might even have been the truck driver who delivered dirt for the day of creation!)

    GPS is distracting as all hell when you do make a "wrong turn". Rand McNally just sits on the seat until I ASK for his advice.

    Of course, I'll admit - mapreading was pretty much a lost art before GPS technology came out. You can stop in any truck stop in America, and find that 2/3 of the drivers can't read Rand McNally, or any other version of a printed map. Instead, they rely on that GPS computer, the cell phone, and pure dumb luck. The other 1/3? A lot of them are like me - they've crisscrossed the country so many times, they don't NEED no stinking map most of the time!! Those last 10 or 20 miles going to a new stop is all they need any help with, and often times they can get that from the CB radio!

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:14PM (#30424214)

    The thing is, I totally get what he is saying - I use a free nav app for the iPhone (and most other platforms) called Waze []. At times, the screen is lit up like a christmas tree with a thousand data points.

    But how I like to use the app, is simply as an informational display as to what is around me. So the app would be even more useful to me, if there was a mode that showed the next three streets upcoming and not much else. Kind of like he was talking about the tube map, a more logical and clearly presented map that lets me parse important information much more quickly so I don't have to pay attention, I just have to glance.

  • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:25PM (#30424286)

    But at complex junctions, actually seeing the layout and where I'm supposed to end up is invaluable. A picture really can be worth a thousand words.

    Yes, but the columnist's point was that you don't need fancy graphics with photos to tell you that. All you need is a clear diagram.

    For those of us who can read maps, sure. But there's something of a sampling bias here on /. -- we tend to be folks who can process symbolic information pretty well. Maps are not a lot of use for my wife, whereas a picture of the intersection with something pointing to where she should leave would be just what she needs.

  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FrigBot ( 1459361 ) * on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:37PM (#30424806)

    In May and June this year, I went to Germany and Holland with my father. We rented an Audi with a GPS built in. It was a gift from the gods of navigation. Without it we would have been totally inept, and neither of us had used one before. I generally ran the nav system while he drove (because I picked up the fine points of the system quicker than he did).

    One day, in Germany on the Autobahn (can't remember exactly where right now but I do have notes on it) there was a huge traffic jam. I had no idea that traffic there gets like that. But everything was backed up. People shut off their cars and got out to chat. Nobody was moving, in either direction. Remember this is the Autobahn.

    Anyway, two notable things happened. We decided to follow a small group of cars that were driving on the shoulder and trying to find a way out. This was probably illegal, but whatever. After getting off the main highway, we wound up alone somewhere. Check the GPS, we found exactly where we were (with the traffic lady letting us know that noone was moving) and it was one a dirt road. I zoomed in on the map, found the next nearest hamlet and we navigated there. Then I did that again and again, and we drove through about a dozen tiny villages. It was amazing. We saw old buildings that no tourist ever sees, and some had scars in them, maybe from WW2. Got to see a lot of neat things.

    Later, back on the main highway, we were stopped at a light or something and the kid in the car behind us jumped out, came to my window and asked for directions to some town he was trying to reach. I used the gps and gave him what he needed. That was cool too.

    GPS is not distracting. I found it very helpful. Witout it we never would have seen those off-the-beaten path villages.

  • Turn off the audio (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wormholio ( 729552 ) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:20PM (#30425184)

    I found the audio to be distracting, whereas the video display gives me positional awareness, and I can look at it when I choose to, not when the box decides to say something. I found I was much more relaxed when I found how to turn off the audio.

    So I guess having both at the same time is the real problem.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.