Dashboard navigation: At the next intersection, turn … off

  • Article by: DAVID BANKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 8, 2014 - 7:01 PM

We’re very fond of the assistance, but just remember: You can go your own way.

So, I was reading about Apple CarPlay, a newly announced system in which participating automakers will integrate the iPhone into the dashboards of their cars. Setting aside a teensy matter — the Obvious Distraction Risk that manufacturers and the driving public seem determined to write off, especially as some of the technology becomes hands-free — I was struck by a specific comment:

“My phone is also connected to the web, so if I say, “Navigate to Whole Foods,” to either my LG G2 or iPhone, it knows what I am talking about.”

Seriously. This person can fling about abstruse model nomenclature, but she can’t find her way to the grocery store.

Perhaps it was just a “for instance.” Still, people these days seem to seek GPS assistance for even mundane reckoning. And I don’t get it.

I actually enjoy navigating. A whole bunch. If I’m going somewhere new, I like to study a map beforehand, then feel my way to the destination. It’s hard to get truly lost, so mistakes are learning opportunities as long as no one panics.

In familiar places, I try all the secondary and tertiary routes, just to have that reference for the future.

I have no quarrel with how the tech companies have put detailed maps at our fingertips online. When you can happily linger over a paper map for hours, the opportunity to explore one without edges is nirvana.

Undoubtedly, navigational help is of great value for some tasks and situations, and for people who just didn’t get that gene. (They have other fine skills to compensate.) But the experience seems, overall, as limiting as a guided tour.

As for the aforementioned driver distraction, let me just say, matter-of-factly: Iceberg dead ahead.

David Banks is the Star Tribune's assistant commentary editor.

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