Saturday, May 16, 2009

Directionally Challenged

I can't stand driving directions that come from computers. On our adventure to Portland this last week, Rachel and I encountered some of the worst driving directions we've seen. Not only did we become lost in Portland (and we're both good with maps), we didn't even know how to become un-lost without asking for directions. Sure, eventually, if we had kept driving in any one direction we would have found a major road, but urban sprawl is ugly!

How bad were the directions? Just to give you an idea of what we encountered, this is similar to what the directions said:

Go north toward exit 45. (15 miles)
Take exit 36 to Beantown. (3 miles)
Turn left on Beantown Road. (8 miles)
Turn left on Grassy Avenue. (0.44 feet)

First, why would anyone give directions that send someone to an exit waaaaaay beyond the turn they need to make? Why say "go to exit 45" when I need to "turn at exit 36"? WHY!? Why can't the directions say "From interstate 004, take exit 36"? I can understand if they said, "follow the interstate north toward Seattle (or even Canada)" if you know that you're staying within Oregon. You know that if you hit Seattle, you've gone too far. Don't give me landmarks to drive toward, give me directions that make sense.

The other gripe I have about internet-based driving directions is their inability to determine driver reaction time. If I exit a freeway onto a side road, I need to know in advance what lane to be in. Sometimes they say to take an exit and turn left, but they send you on another immediate left or right that means several quick lane changes that are impossible. We encountered that yesterday in downtown Portland. It was not fun!

I've heard of driving directions sending people on logging roads or worse to save time. It's insane how off-road or difficult the paths can be. Something must be done. I'm taking maps next time for sure, not only to counteract the awful driving directions, but also to see what other options are available in case I can't follow the directions the computer gave me.

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