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Google GPS navigation


For two days we get caught out by and even lost on the freeways around San Diego – our car hire company did not provide Sat Nav and there are no road maps to speak of – I bought two. They lacked detail and didn’t even show Ocean Beach where we were staying. Resistance to localising our Sim cards and we try the new Google Maps GPS system. A wonder. We nickname the British voice ‘Simon’ as in ‘Simon Says …’ Unlike the human navigator or back-seat driver he is extraordinarly patient if you insist on going the wrong way. Overnight we develop a dependency which ensures that more than one phone is charged, a battery-block is charged too and we even buy a bluetooth linked portable speaker.

Our week in Sausalito becomes an adventure as we drive ‘like natives’ from one end of the county to the other … and beyond. Farfrom being slaves to the technology it frees us.

We marvel at the precision navigation – for the most part. We are ‘rescued’ several times from what I would call Freeway Purgatory – finding no way off the freeway and losing any sense of direction. We trust it rather than my gut to take us everywhere. So far the only foible has been the choice of exit from Golden Gate North to Sausalito as ‘Simon’s’ choice is to drop down the steepest most windy road to our accommodation rather than taking the longer, and more appropriate main road in.

It is a Beta version. Whilst a sense of fun has me dreaming up all kinds of variations to the character and tone of the voice, and its granularity my only additional requirement is for the occassional prompt during a long stretch to say we are doing OK.

Of course, losing the signal or a dead phone is now a bind. So far I will take screen grabs and yesterday with the phone about to die I took photos of the route and directions which my daughter then read out as we set off – necessary as even getting from one side of a freeway to the other may require what feels like an odd choice of route, not over or under, but along and back.

Walking a trail in Muir Woods, when we had a signal, I could, within reason keep on track. Not accurate enough to allow me to close my eyes, but one day could this support the blind? Could we turn ‘Simon’ into an educator as well as a guide? Do we want some or any journey ‘annotated?’


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