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Satellite Navigation a Real Crackpot! 230

debest writes "What happens when your satellite navigation system in your car gives you bad advice on which road you should take? In Britain, these systems have been directing drivers down a road near the (aptly named) town of Crackpot that is strewn with boulders and has an unprotected 100ft dropoff on one side! The locals are worried someone's going to go off the edge."
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Satellite Navigation a Real Crackpot!

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  • What to do: (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:09PM (#15081126)
    Treat it for depression, give it plenty of (if its voice command) encouraging words or (if its tap-n-go) a good rub, but be sure to keep an eye on it; its obviously has suicidal tendancies.
  • by pranay ( 724362 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:10PM (#15081133)
    Is why are the british drivers punching in "crackpot" as their destination? Agreed that GPS Nav works like magic, but this is too much optimism. What did they expect, a list of all local crack joints with directions?
  • Cooter (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:11PM (#15081139)
    ""What happens when your satellite navigation system in your car gives you bad advice on which road you should take?"

    Not much different than that gas station attendant five miles back.
  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:12PM (#15081142) Homepage
    Come on, if back in the early 1980s you could get a sentient talking car [amazon.com], then why in 2006 do we settle for these simple guidance systems that are so limited they could get us killed?
  • by temojen ( 678985 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:14PM (#15081154) Journal
    1) Put up a sign reading "Don't go down this road, even if your GPS tells you to; Dangerous conditions ahead".

    2) Stabilize the slope above and install a guard rail.
    • by demonbug ( 309515 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:28PM (#15081239) Journal
      1) Put up a sign reading "Don't go down this road, even if your GPS tells you to; Dangerous conditions ahead".

      2) Stabilize the slope above and install a guard rail.

      1) good idea - but they're going to also need to provide directions for an alternate route

      2) This sounds like a rather remote, extremely lightly travelled route - it may not be economically feasible to install a guard rail and "stabilize the slope" (which could cost tens of thousands or millions of dollars). Sounds like it is just a back-country dirt road that wasn't designed for through traffic.

    • what!!? no ..., no PROFIT!! ?

          you must be new here.

      btw, "But we get a lot of sales reps in posh cars coming and they get so cross" hmm, wonder what the sales reps are selling in crackpot?

    • Because driving over steep edges is just one of natures thinning out devices, doing so would be anti-evolutionary (watch the ID folk go do it now ;-)

    • 1) Put up a sign reading "Don't go down this road, even if your GPS tells you to; Dangerous conditions ahead".

      Actually there there is a sign [telegraph.co.uk]. And a five-bar gate:

      Many ignore a no through road sign and open a five-bar gate before trying to continue along a gravel track linking Swaledale and Wensleydale.
  • by PacoHernandez ( 939349 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:15PM (#15081159)
    Is there a reason that they haven't put a railing on the "unprotected 100ft dropoff" edge?
    • Keep in mind this is the country that gave the world Charles Darwin. It's obviously a form of... encoraged natural selection.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:52PM (#15081377)
      Yes there is a reason - it's a rock-strewn farm track rather than a surfaced road and it isn't suitable for motor vehicles, and certainly isn't a through road. The error in question isn't the quality of the road or the lack of a guard rail, but the fact that the GPS systems are flagging it as a through route when it isn't.

      I've holidayed in the area regularly and once you go off the A (main) and B (narrow, usually single-lane) roads, you're on moorland, bogland and are pretty much on your own. While I can't be 100% sure whether I've been down the specific track they're talking about, I have mountain-biked down a few pretty hairy tracks near Crackpot that I know I wouldn't take a car down, specifically the ones that end in a drop, rather than have one at the side...
      • Yes there is a reason - it's a rock-strewn farm track rather than a surfaced road and it isn't suitable for motor vehicles,

        Except possibly a real "all terrain" vehicle, which few people other than farmers are likely to have.
    • That reminds me of driving down the length of the Baja Peninsula to La Paz in 1991 to view that year's total eclipse of the sun. It's over a thousand miles, asphalt the whole way, but the road had no centerline, no shoulders and very few guard rails. Every so often, at a sharp curve, you could peer out the window and see the remains of a car or truck that had pitched over the side. These weren't rusted out hulks either, but recent accidents. And now and then the site would be marked with one or more crosse
      • by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Friday April 07, 2006 @04:21AM (#15082766)
        Every so often, at a sharp curve, you could peer out the window and see the remains of a car or truck that had pitched over the side...We took those curves very, very carefully.

        In Indonesia, they deliberately leave wrecked cars in place as reminders for the following drivers. Occasionally, if such cars are not easily spotted, they're put on top of a platform on a mast, to be more visible ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:21PM (#15081187)
    ...put up a sign "Toll Road Ahead".

  • by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:21PM (#15081189) Homepage
    I had a similar problem recently while driving through Pennsylvania. I had set my car's GPS computer to lead me to Intercourse, but no matter what I pushed it I could only reach Bird in Hand. Of course, I've had this problem with web pages on my PC at home before, so I really can't blame the mapping company.
  • by rune2 ( 547599 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:22PM (#15081191) Homepage
    In Crackpot there's more than one way to go off the deep end! /rimshot
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:22PM (#15081192)
    There are a couple of problems with these things, both familiar to MapQuest [mapquest.com] users.

    1) Things change. New roads (sometimes whole communities) get built, and there is some latency in getting that updated data where it can be used by your GPS-mapper (whether in your car or on the web).

    2) Driving-direction algorithims are good, but not flawless. MapQuest, for example, provides driving directions that will usually get you where you want to go, but may have you take an odd route to get there.

    The bottom line: If you expect your Tom-Tom (or whatever) to magically do all of your thinking for you, you'll eventually wind up going over an 'unexpected' cliff ...
    • by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 ) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:57PM (#15081405) Homepage
      TomTom are *really* bad though. They're riding high as the most common GPS in the UK.

      Unfortunately their maps are filled with obvious errors, and they ignore people who correct them (it's not uncommon for roads to be 10 years out of date on their maps... they've been told - repeatedly - about these errors but each time a map upgrade comes out no fixes have been done. Add to that the fact the map upgrades are not free and TT are ripe for being murdered by the competition..)
    • Damn right! I've personally fucked myself with MapQuest. Two things happend to me while driving to a clients house plotted with MQ.

      1. Took the shortest path that cross a bridge over a bayou. Problem: the bridge hasn't even been fucking built yet. The road was closed off. Worse yet, it didn't look like a bridge would ever be built from the looks of it.

      2. Driving to a new residential area. Problem: Road that was supposed to continue on but was instead turned into a Cul de sac.
  • I live in noplace, TN.. I got sent down a dirt road via mapquest onetime. Eventually, I came out at my destination. The point is, that the map software only sees roads.. Not the quality of the roads. Really, ideally, these kinds of roads wouldn't have made their way into the map database at all.
    • by mzwaterski ( 802371 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:42PM (#15081321)
      I know my GPS sees road types because I can tell it to exclude some road types from a particular trip. For example, I can say: no highways, no dirt roads, etc...

      I have a Garmin Quest.

    • You're lucky. I live in noplace, Tn, as well... and they don't even recognize my ROAD on mapquest. At all. According to them, I don't exist.
    • Well, it depends. For example, years ago I had a rental car from Hertz with a GPS. I was surprised to discover that the GPS did not have the road that my parents live on.

      I figure I can probably find "Main Street" in a small town. I don't need a GPS to tell me that. However, I could probably use some help finding "Baker Hill Road."

      That said, one of the odd tricks about roads is that if nobody lives on a road, generally the town doesn't maintain it and stops becoming a road. You can find all sorts of "us
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by abscissa ( 136568 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:24PM (#15081208)
    If a computer tells you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?
  • "Don't drive there! The road ends on a cliff and we'll all fall off and die horribly!" "But the GPS directions say to go that way!" "Oh, in that case, no problem. "
  • Similar Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SloWave ( 52801 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:33PM (#15081266) Journal
    Some time back when GPS's in cars were fairly new, I rented a Hertz car with a GPS while on a business trip to Colorado. I didn't ask for the GPS, they just gave it to me. At the end of my trip I decided to try out the GPS, so I programmed it to return me to the Colorado Springs airport. I missed the first turn to the airport but no problem, the GPS said it had an alternate route. So I followed the route until it said I had reached my destination. All I could see however was miles of nothing and a big chain link fence. The GPS insisted I was at the airport however. Finally I dug out the rental car map and it showed me that the GPS had led me to the back side of the airport. I almost missed my flight because of that stupid GPS.
    • That sounds like my experience with the Hertz "N^Heverlost" system. At the time I was in Austin, Tx and we needed to go back to the airport, so we went through the menus and chose "airport" as the destination. It directed us to the old airport which had been closed for several years. We finally figured out we had to tell the system we wanted to go back home and it directed us correctly.

      Fortunately we gave ourselves plenty of time.
    • Re:Similar Story (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Persol ( 719185 )
      Odd timing.

      I'm currently in Pueblo, CO at a test site 30 miles outside town. There's only one paved road to the facility and it's from Pueblo.

      I usually fly into Denver, drove through the Springs, to Pueblo and then head out to the site. Simple trip, just get on 25-S and drive. Get off on exit 101A and drive ~30 miles.

      Well, I wanted to test my new gps. It had me drive down to the Co Springs airport and then take a ~30 mile dirt road. Actually got me there quicker, but the facility keeps that gate locked :/
    • Well, if you've ever been to Denver, you know that the airport is essentially one big building surrounded by literally miles and miles of nothing.
    • I'm sorry if this sounds harsh but technically you almost missed your flight because you were inept with the technology.

      You'd never used this technology before, had no training in using it, don't know its limitations and your test was to rely on it? Gimme a break. You should have punched it into the GPS, pulled over, and then compared with the paper based maps. A few minutes checking over your assumption and you'd not have been anywhere near as late.

      Would you pick a random web page and believe everything yo
  • by Winlin ( 42941 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:45PM (#15081341)
    The locals are so worried about this. Just like, in the days of sailing ships, the villagers who put up fake lights were very worried that some ship might run aground on the rocks. I say we see who in this village is hacking the GPS. First place to look...the suspiciously wellstocked local secondhand store.
  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:48PM (#15081354) Homepage Journal
    I say buy the parcel of land at the bottom of the 100ft dropoff and set up an auto wrecking yard. Put up sign half way down - "Welcome to Crackpot Auto Wrecking"
  • by cootuk ( 847498 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:51PM (#15081369)
    This is fairly local to me. This is out in the wilds where the decent A road takes the long way round. The problem seems to be that untarmaced roads are set to about 10mph average spped by default in a lot of routing software, and most people select 'fastest route'. Simply by setting untarmaced roads to 1mph you can avoid some of this silly routing. Plus using a bit of common sense.
  • by XdevXnull ( 905214 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:06PM (#15081446)
    In Soviet Crackpot, GPS drives you!
  • Since most navigation companies buy their map databases from someone else they'll have to pass the info on to their supplier and maybe make a tweak to their local copy. It might be as simple as classifying the road as "dirt" vs "county road" to keep it from being used as part of a route.

    However, that will only fix things for the people who get the next version of the updated maps. Customers driving around with 4 year old maps in their built-in navigation systems will still be SOL.

    So, as someone suggested,
  • ... needs to teach the driving [yahoo.com] directions [google.com] software about ferries [wa.gov].
  • by thc69 ( 98798 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:39PM (#15081592) Homepage Journal
    One of the things I enjoy about my GPS is that it sometimes takes me on rocky, dangerous, fall-off-a-cliff dirt roads that I'd otherwise never find!
  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:46PM (#15081632) Journal
    This story was a real surprise - I never thought Crackpot would get a mention in Slashdot. My parents have a cottage just up the dale outside Gunnerside. However I feel I should point out that Crackpot is hardly a town. It consists of about two farmhouses and a barn! The biggest attraction is probably the name although I do remember going on a good walk from there once.

    Incidently the name comes from the norse "pot" meaning hole or dip (in this case referring to the limestone rift there) and "Kraka" meaning crow. As a kid I was always told it was because they found some roman coins in a cracked pot there but I think the former is more plausible!

    Anyway it was great to see Crackpot on Slashdot. I suppose next week they'll be a story about the nearby town of Hawes (which is pronounced "whores" :-)

  • Similar Issues (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cylix ( 55374 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:54PM (#15081662) Homepage Journal
    A looong time ago in Seatle I managed to get some similar system.

    Hertz or herts or something car rental came with a navigation system.

    I thought, well this is nifty and set about setting up my destination.

    It was a bit of a pain initially and I was really annoyed I didn't have more time to spend truly learning it before I actually went somewhere. Still, I pressed onward with this great technological advancement and started on my way.

    I swear the damn thing tried to kill me repeatedly.

    Wrong street here, one way there or just it generally shouting at me that I was going the wrong way.

    I was still fairly impressed that it managed to re-calculate the route, but I gave up on it after the second time it sent me down the wrong way on a one way street.

    It ended up being useful to get me close to my destination, but just wasn't responsive enough for my needs.

    I'm sure it is much better now though.
    • Heh, I remember very earnestly signing the contract for a rental... a legal sized page of 1 point type (ok, maybe 6 point, max) - saying stuff like "I won't take this car out of the state..."

      As I recall, I chose that car company because it was conveniently located close to the ferry dock. Their car was on the way out of the country in 30 minutes.

      (Canada is still another country, right?)

  • Map (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ambient Sheep ( 458624 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @10:14PM (#15081746)
    Here's a map [multimap.com] of the place. Check out those contour lines (in metres), and the chevrons on the roads, which indicate steep gradients (for those not versed in British OS map symbols).

    I guess it's that pale-white track on the bottom left, just below the "Summer Lodge [Farm]" that was mentioned in the article, in which case no GPS system should take you down one of those - white on British OS maps (as opposed to yellow) means no tarmac. And the dotted edges of the road indeed mean "unfenced". Lovely stuff. It's even debatable whether the narrow yellow roads on that map (which mean single-track with passing places) should be used by a GPS as through routes, let alone the white ones!

    Still, it reinforces the stupidity of the drivers, as there's obviously a point there, just past the farm, where the character of the road changes, and they blindly believe the GPS rather than turn back and let it find another route.

    • Check out those contour lines (in metres), and the chevrons on the roads, which indicate steep gradients

      That's the thing with the consumer GPS systems I've seen; none of them include things like contour lines. They are simply 2 dimensional road maps. Not very detailed, but I'd imagine that would be by design, to keep the display easy to read while driving.

      It's even debatable whether the narrow yellow roads on that map (which mean single-track with passing places) should be used by a GPS as through rout

    • It's even debatable whether the narrow yellow roads on that map (which mean single-track with passing places) should be used by a GPS as through routes, let alone the white ones!

      Well, if it excluded single-track roads, it would be basically useless in some parts of Scotland (Westeross, but others too), which only have single track roads. Sometimes even without passing places (Applecross).

  • I believe this is why most GPS in car nav systems have a click through disclaimer every time it starts saying that while these are valid directiosn they are not necessarily the best/fastest/safest way from A -> B and that you use them at your own peril.

    This is what happens when people rely too much on nifty gadgets and stop using basic skills like map reading. The map may sill take you down this road but from what I've seen people get all googlyeyed in front of any video display and lose basic reasoning
  • Hmmm... I wonder. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spy der Mann ( 805235 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `todhsals.nnamredyps'> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @10:28PM (#15081797) Homepage Journal
    City: Silent Hill, Toluca County, West Virginia.

    Hey, what's that cliff doing in the middle of the roaaAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  • by browng ( 953782 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @10:55PM (#15081919)
    I have owned a Magellen Roadmate 760 for six months. Living in Chicagoland for 28 years I find my GPS makes days out more flexible; any new place we wish to go is its command. In the past, going from one area to another would include at least a slght bit of driving towards home till we found a street we know takes us to the new area. With GPS it is almost like a wormhole, as soon after you leave your starting point you are in unfamiliar territory and then sooner than you would think you pop out at your destination. I have learned more about what this area has to offer.
  • Someone gave me the DeLorme Earthmate GPS navigation system that wires into any laptop and offers realtime voice directions. I have used it on three trips now, each with routes I know with my eyes closed, and it has provided very wrong directions each and every time. In each case, had I relied on it, I would never--or after extended detours--have arrived at my destinations. So regarding DeLorme products, caveat emptor.

    Oh, and should someone give you it as a gift, you can translate their generosity into th

  • In Dec 2004 in Tokyo my taxi driver in picked me up after the limo bus dropped me off at some Hyatt Grand or similar (I can't remember the name anymore) and turned on his GPS system. I was blown away.

    This think had 3D/elevation-like views. As he got closer to my destination (a hostel only about 10 minutes walk from the big hotel where the limo bus deposited me), he couldn't find the little alleyway between two narrow but longer streets. He went round and round like 4 or 5 times trying to nail the address. I
    • TomTom shows a short-of 3d view. It's basically the flat map viewed at an angle. It's like having a chase 'copter! No building details, but that might be a good thing, less concentration deciphering the GPS display and more for driving. This style not only looks neat, it actually makes it easy to understand.

      It still sends you the wrong places though. Once I was running late for something, so I decided to just trust it. In that one 5 mile journey it tried to send me down a one-way street the wrong way as w

    • 10 minutes walk... He went round and round like 4 or 5 times trying to nail the address. I didn't care. Why?

      And the taxi driver didn't care either. Never earned a fare that easily...

      I hope for you that this was on company expense, not out of your pockets ;-)

      In the end, it turned out that he'd been passing the hostel each time.

      Hehe. Now I know what I'll do when my employers fires me. I'll move to Tokyo and be a taxi driver, bedazzling the naive tourists and business travelers with my snazzy GPS... ;-)

Loose bits sink chips.