back to article Half of GPS users given duff information

Half of those using stand-alone GPS equipment have been sent down the wrong road thanks to out of date or inaccurate information, though not all of them directly into a river. TeleNav, who make software for GPS-equipped phone handsets, hired survey-company Zoomerang to poll 500 users of stand-alone GPS equipment. Half of those …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm not sure that GPS is the correct term for these products or the correct title for this article. GPS, as a stand alone product/system, doesn't deliver "directions" per se and certainly doesn't deliver business information. Those things are delivered by navigation or "sat nav" systems as I think the Europeans call them.

    The nomenclature is important as GPS works pretty darn well but navigation systems are at best inefficient toys/gadgets whose performance can be blown away by traditional maps.

  2. Adam Bishop


    You mean Sat Nav systems surely? How much damage can a stand-alone GPS do as it only gives out a grid reference?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Railway lines are the in thing in East Sussex nowadays.

  4. Ole Juul

    You still need to keep your eyes on the road

    I think you need a pretty expensive unit to get really useful acuracy. I've got a $150 Magellan and if I go to town and back (about 12 miles), the lines don't match at all. If I had to use my GPS to follow the road, I'd fall off the first cliff! My neighbour does a lot of prospecting and he too finds that the regular GPS equipment is not accurate enough to lay out claims. Notably, there's a difference depending on the time of day.

  5. Marvin the Martian

    Use any mapping service to be sent to the ditch

    Little to do with the gps [=the positioning] and everything with the mapping. About every route planning service I've used, has come up with road that run through water, whether online or offline, and independent of gps or not.

    And see the hilarity on the register of a route suggesting to swim the atlantic.

    E.g. ViaMichelin still sends you on the roads [e.g. Carpenters Road, Stratford] that have been closed down with metal gates [for the olympic developments, so stays closed for another year or four].

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bad workman blames his tools?

    A more accurate headline would have been "Half of GPS users CLAIM to have been given duff information".

    Many people nowadays use GPS on maps without any route planning facility, because there are more and more companies offering free GPS maps with a view to making a profit from optional pay-for route planning. If someone wants to do things on the cheap and just read the maps themselves, that's going to cause the same kind of human errors as normal paper maps.

    Obviously there's a lot of out-of-date stuff on all maps, almost as soon as they're published, and the more comprehensive they are the more errors they will contain. But how many of those surveyed actually experienced errors, and how many just can't use sat nav properly?

    Of course if people can't use sat nav that's a partial indictment of sat nav as well, but it means the problems lie in the interface rather than the maps.

  8. Shaun

    A couple of times

    I've been sent down a road that doesn't exist, which is due to out of date maps.

    Once though, I was actually told to do a U-turn while I was driving down the M62 (unlike some of the stories on El Reg, I ignored this advice)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Updates are not free, they are non-existent

    "Even where stand-alone systems can be updated, though removable media or connection to a PC, it seems that most users don't bother:"

    Fat lot of good it does. I connect my tom tom to my PC about once a month, and accept any updates it gives.

    However, so far those updates fail to include the error I reported to teleatlas about a year ago, when I pointed out that the "road" it was directing me across was actually a FOOT bridge. And even gave them a google earth reference so they could zoom in and SEE it was only a footbridge.

    I haven't checked, but I strongly suspect they also haven't added the banned right turn I reported at the same time.

    If the updates exist, they are indeed free ... content-free, that is. Though whether that's the fault of tele-atlas or tomtom is harder to tell.

  10. leslie


    the mapping companies need a rocket to uranus, or something like that.....

  11. George

    TomTom - no such thing as updates

    Anyone (such as the anonymous TomTom user) expecting free map details updates, is sadly deluded. TomTom do NOT provide this. Their policy is "wait till we release an updated map, and BUY it if you want" (Hint: It REPLACES your current map. There ARE NO updates!) And when you do you'll likely find plenty of things are STILL wrong.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another meaningless sat nav article

    Half of those using stand-alone GPS equipment have been sent down the wrong road ONCE (maybe more)

    - my change but it more accurately reflects the true situation

    Vector maps contain millions of pieces of data.

    If only 3% of them were wrong I would consider them extremely accurate. I believe that the error rate is less than 0.5% (half of 1 percent) which is brilliant.

    If even one error happens to be on your route then yes that will cause you a problem.

    I get a little tired of articles that expect mapping data to be 100%

    correct when literally no other data or product anywhere in the world is regardless of price. This includes paper maps.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I get a little tired of articles that expect mapping data to be 100%

    How many errors have you seen in *real* map data, eg from the Ordnance Survey? Upstarts like the mapping company TomTom just bought don't have as complicated a job to do as the OS but don't seem to get the details that right either, perhaps the solution is for folk to get the satnav vendors (yes there's a difference between a satnav and a GPS) pay for real OS mapping data rather than complain about cheapo imitations.

    Oh and what's with the original author's GP and "social networking" thing again? Has he got shares in something? I think we should be told.

  14. Name


    I have been directed to roads which have been permanently closed, I have also driven roads the GPS didn't (yet) know about.

    From a UK perspective I think it is crazy that more than one organisation is doing exactly the same (not very good) job of digitising road network maps. Accurate and up to date digital maps of our road network should be provided by the government as a public service.

    They are the ones that built the road network and keep hacking around with it, who better to keep accurate information on it. We paid for it, is it so unreasonable to expect a supplier to provide accurate documentation with their product?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maps and copyright

    It is true that there is a problem with out of date maps - you can't get to my street on most sat navs because the ends have been blocked to stop it being a rat run and the way in is not an obvious route. However, all maps have intentional errors in them, this is so that it can be seen if someone has ripped one off, I believe that an early piece of routing software, that I won't name because I'm not 100% sure which it was, used the OS maps and got into rather a lot of trouble because of it.

    You will probably have noticed a 'take a left' where you clearly have to take a right.

    You'll also probably have noticed that all quiz books/games such as trivial persuit, have incorrect answers to one or two of the questions.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ambulances don't carry map but use SatNav instead

    Around here the ambulances are all equipped with SatNav so management say they don't "need" to carry maps. None of the SatNavs seem to understand that some roads are tidal -- so are closed by water at regular times. We've had people die waiting over an hour for the ambulance that was stuck trying to get through this rising water.

    We also have a pair of roads with signs (remember them, instructions on poles by the side of the road) saying "unsuitable for HGV" -- but drivers of lorries over 30 foot long drive straight past (and then get stuck) because their Tom Tom said that was the way to go. In these cases the local farmer makes a few bob towing them out with a tractor so someone if profiting.

    Both errors reported to the mapping companies!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mr. Lucky!

    I have been using mobile device based Sat Nav since the availability of integrated GPS in a mobile phone in the Motorola A920 in 2003! And besides a few minor problems I have had very few problems. I always check my destination with multimap first and then check that is the same as Tom Tom or WayFinder etc also say. Perhaps people who don't have problems never post here ;)

  18. call me scruffy


    Come on we've heard this record before, someone screws up and blames the GPS. Last time I saw this someone was driving too fast to actually follow the directions.. and still blamed the GPS.

    And once again the masses expect DGPS accuracy on a stand alone gadget.

    GPS track depends on time of day? Not a surprise. Anyone who knew how GPS actually works could tell you about how the environment can introduce offset errors.

    If people actually spent a morning understanding the basic theory of their toys they might actually get the most out of them. In britain at the moment you have to have at least a basic understanding of a car before you're licensed to drive one. You have to understand road surfaces, conditions, visibilities, laws, engine characteristics, symetry... How many of the great unwashed understand their PC hardware or operating system in the same depth?

    I'm not expecting anyone to be able to build a GPS unit from off the shelf parts, but if you expect anything to work by infalible magic you will be disapointed.

    Until black-box models are banned for being racially demeaning, you have no excuse for ignoring their validity conditions.

  19. Karl Lattimer

    This must be the work of...

    Megatron and the Decepticons!!

    Sorry, just seen transformers... I'll get me coat.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Updates - HA! Not from Jaguar...

    You may expect that you could get updates for a satnav in a car costing over £60,000.

    Not if that car is made by Jaguar.

    Updates? Surely it's not worth it for small and obscure map changes that hardly anyone would use?

    It depends?

    Is the M6 toll road small and obscure?

    Ah, you say. It must be an old model.

    Well, yes. It's 2 years old and still inside the 3-year warranty.

    The sad thing is that the OEM have updates available. Jaguar however 'encrypted' their version and refuse to allow updates to be published.

  21. Daniel Bennett

    Don't use Google Earth then...

    That has images of up to 6 years old!!!

  22. Lyndon Hills

    Maps as a public service

    This would be a nice thing, however, in the UK the OS is required to recover it's costs by charging anyone else for the use of it's maps, including other government agencies. This leads to the situation where OS own the copyright of maps, the post office own the postcode files, and local government, which names the streets pays both for the right to map the areas they govern.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Road atlases aren't infallible either...

    Especially, if like my father-in-law, the road atlas in your car is from 1967, and doesn't even have motorways on it. :-)

  24. Darren Ryan

    Wildly apocryphal

    I've had my Tom Tom try to send me the wrong way down a one way street into a bus station, and even once attempted to kill me by telling me to turn right onto a dual carriageway. I happened to be on the bridge crossing said dual carriageway at the time!

  25. Clive Galway


    I totally agree with George.

    I upgraded my tomtom software lately and so wish I hadn't. I notice no fixes to the map errors that make my life awkward on a regular basis.

    I know of at least 5 map errors within a 5 mile radius of my house in london on routes I regularly use. Mainly roads marked as one way the wrong way or roads that it thinks you can drive down but are blocked. All of them as far as I am aware have been how they have been for years - one at least 20 years. This is in london, on junctions to major roads.

    What I don't understand is why they do not put something in the software to report map errors. They already do a similar thing to report speed cameras.

  26. David Schlinkert

    GPS on - Brain off?

    I don't have a problem with road information being outdated or less than perfect, it's no different from paper maps. Anyone who follows either without thinking, watching the road, or reading signs gets what they get.

    On the other hand, I'm amazed how old much of the GPS "information" is. As an example, the Post Office in my town moved in 1987 and the current databases use that address. To put this in perspective, the company that built the digital map did not exist at the time the P.O. moved!

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022