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Old 22nd May 2015, 16:33   #1
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Default India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

I have noticed from my experience that an over-dependence on GPS may lead to a reduced common sense of roads.
The kaali-peeli taxi-wallahs in Mumbai don't use GPS, but they often have a very good common sense of roads, and are often correct in finding a direction.

I will further illustrate this with an example. My British friend (a former colleague - we had worked together in Dubai) had visited me in Mumbai and I had taken him out for a spin around Mumbai in my car. On that day I was not using GPS and took him to some corners of the city which even I had not visited before. I asked people on the road for directions and also used my common sense to find road directions. This British friend had actually got a shock of his life and said that he can never drive in him home city (London, in this case) without using GPS.

Now coming back to my point, I have noticed that in cities of a developing country like ours, GPS many times may not be as effective and may sometimes even mislead. That makes us better (!) drivers with more common sense about roads (well, is it?).

For example, someone from a developed country, after settling in Mumbai, will find it difficult to find road directions here using his common sense of roads, without depending on GPS. They have got so much wired to GPS that they cannot think of a life without GPS. An over-dependence on GPS has been a boon for them as long as they are driving in a city in a developed country, but bring them to a developing country and they seem to get puzzled at every corner of roads.

So my point is that, is it OK to be over-dependent on GPS in India, that might reduce your common sense of roads over a period of time?
I know views will be polarized, but would like to invite a discussion on this topic nevertheless. Please share your views.

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 23rd May 2015 at 06:29. Reason: Added para space for better reading.
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Old 22nd May 2015, 18:03   #2
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Default re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

Valid post and I agree to most of the notes, but in a slightly different way. It’s just obvious that too much of machine/digital support is leading us to similar situation in other areas too, but not just with GPS or sense of directions. How many phone numbers are stored in our ‘own’ memory these days? I used to remember all my close numbers and was able to dial when I did not have a mobile phone, but off late remembering my own number has taken a lot of time and getting used to, forget the rest! It’s more of generation gap [right?] and level of development and facilities we have in the system we live in. There is nothing wrong or problematic as far as I can think, It’s the sense desire of making it easier and our normal human aspire to use them for the sake of being comfortable and more of technology is what we will keep seeing.
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Old 22nd May 2015, 19:26   #3
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Default re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

Interesting discussion thread! Even though I do understand the point you're trying to make here I dont think I'd fully agree with it. I think having GPS has been a boon and has made life much much easier. Of course, we used to drive before we had GPS here and used to make do with asking directions all the time, but now with my GPS in place, i prefer not stopping everywhere to ask for directions.
And, just to add another angle to this, even when my wife is driving alone, having GPS does add that little safety factor, where she can drive independently withouth having to ask strangers for directions! I am less worried when she drives alone this way.
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Old 22nd May 2015, 19:56   #4
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Default re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

I am not sure why would someone use a GPS if he/she already knows the road. Agreed, technology is to assist and to replace the conventional way of doing things but in this case GPS is limited to assistance unless if the talk is on self-driving cars.

I use a GPS to effectively navigate on an unknown road a couple of times but once I get familiar I don't see a point in using GPS for the same roads.
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Old 23rd May 2015, 01:10   #5
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Default re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

Maybe due to stricter traffic laws, a GPS may be able to provide correct information on one way streets, no entries, lane changes etc. We have a more 'relaxed' attitude towards rules.

Also roads don't change frequently as much as in India which is undergoing a huge infrastructure development phase. So information there would be much more correct and not prone to sudden and abrupt changes.
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Old 23rd May 2015, 06:31   #6
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Originally Posted by debmum View Post
So my point is that, is it OK to be over-dependent on GPS in India, that might reduce your common sense of roads over a period of time?
I'll prefer my brain and instincts than driving around with GPS devices hanging around my vision.

I have seen a few taxis have GPS installed and they go by that instructions, IMO it made me think then why does one not use their brain, Why depend?! Everything is shown by the device, we just have to 'drive'. Sometimes routes are longer than required, any wrong shortcut taken, the GPS goes bonkers.

Indian cities are in developing stage so one would need to keep refreshing the GPS software to get real time updates w.r.t the actual roads. For eg: It would ask you to straight from a intersection but in reality that would be a 'one-way' that is wrong direction forcing you to look at alternatives.

Another example where GPS would be of use to me is when I'm traveling to another city like Bangalore or Mumbai of which I have no idea regarding the road, routes. GPS comes handy or at least helps to get an idea that I'm in the right direction and the auto/taxi wallah isn't cheating me taking the longer way for money.

If a person knows the city will that he/she is residing in, the GPS proves of no use to them. They'll directly proceed to the destination rather than spending time keying-in the routes.

On safety point of view, isn't it obstructing to keep looking at that device regularly while driving to be on track.

Overall, nothing beats the human brain when it comes to routes etc. One can depend or rather refer (right word here) on the GPS but NOT 'depend' on them. It should not become that one CANNOT drive around without GPS.

Last edited by a4anurag : 23rd May 2015 at 06:39.
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Old 23rd May 2015, 12:24   #7
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Default re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

India has its own special road conditions & diverse driving cultures as per local situations. We can use GPS devices intelligently with common sense to maximize our driving experience. I've learned that only depending on GPS is not very helpful.

Having a GPS device certainly help to find route.
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Old 23rd May 2015, 12:45   #8
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Default Re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

Well, you can use both, can't you?

GPS Navigation is a godsend for India because we don't have well-marked roads or addresses. I find Pune extremely confusing; had a business meet that I was going to drive to alone. Google Maps guided me for 10 kms through the insides of Pune, right to the entrance of the building (which I missed, but the voice prompt said "your destination is on the left"). Didn't need to take the help of a local even once.

On the other hand, had to recently visit a doc in Parel. Google Maps took me on an unbelievably narrow road where it was impossible for the Civic to fit. Asked a bystander for directions, although the GPS Navigation covered 90% of the route for me.

Basically, in India, you have to use maps : local help in a 90 : 10 ratio.
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Old 23rd May 2015, 12:58   #9
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Default Re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

And I would add these:
-When you are going to a place for the first time, example a long road trip and there are multiple options for the route. In such cases if you know that a particular route option is the best, better to plot it on the device and use it to guide you on that route
-Some cities are really mapped well so if you're new to that city, GPS can be a boon to find your way.

Last edited by NPV : 23rd May 2015 at 12:59.
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Old 23rd May 2015, 12:58   #10
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Default Re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

True navigators try to rely on multiple different techniques and inputs and ways of determining what route to take.

So a combination of common sense, asking locals, bringing a paper chart (does anybody in India has a paper road map) and a GPS and knowing how to combine all of this, will likely give you the best route.

Back in Europe and the US I always use my GPS, even when I'm in areas where I am familiar. There is no law that says you have to do what the GPS tells you. So you can apply some common sense, the GPS will always recalculate immediately.

Really understanding how the various planning options on your GPS work is helpful too. Switching between 3D and 2D at appropriate times might give you a very meaningful insight whether you want to continue with the GPS directions or take your own call.

The one big benefit is the automatic traffic information system. The GPS knows where the congested routes are and the more advanced units even have algorithm's predicting congestion and plan your route around it.

Try this link and fill in for instance Amsterdam or New York


Back in Europe and the USA I always carry multiple paper road maps as well. I have been out on so many tours here in India, but I have yet to see anybody use a paper map?

When I go out on my bullet I will plan the route on my PC, upload it to my Garmin Etrex. But whenever I come to major junction I might check with the locals if it is indeed the best way.

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Old 23rd May 2015, 13:42   #11
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Default Re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

GPS is more kinder to traffic. Without a GPS one would stop ten times within the city and ask for directions - now one only looks for help in "the last mile".

Imagine the jams that have been alleviated esp in crowded inner city roads? I think its a total boon. Thats one really enduring legacy of Bill Clinton!
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Old 23rd May 2015, 17:41   #12
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Default Re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

Hi, with the roads getting so busy, stopping and asking for directions along a busy one way, before you miss the exit isnt really an option. GPS really helps.

However, GPS doesn't really give you an idea of how motorable the road is like GTO said. I use GPS to get an idea about where the destination is, and give it a glance just to check I'm heading towards it.

I never use turn by turn voice guidance, but almost always use GPS to figure out where the destination is.

P.S: Oh, and btw, in Wayanad, except for the popular places and roads, never take a GPS advice. There is a possibility you will be staring at a dead end with knee deep water/slush.

Last edited by dhanushs : 23rd May 2015 at 17:45.
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Old 24th May 2015, 00:23   #13
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Default Re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

I score very poorly when it comes to both GIVING and RECEIVING directions. My brain get overloaded & shuts down after "Go straight for 200 metres, take a left at the 2nd traffic signal..."

And that's why I prefer the GPS.
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Old 25th May 2015, 14:27   #14
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Default Re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

Not just the infrastructure, the traffic situation in Europe (which encourages free flow of traffic) does not allow motorists to stop the vehicle and ask for directions. "XYZ kidhar hai maalum hai kya? " doesn't work well as there are restrictions on where to stop and where not to on public roads.

In my case, it is ok if I get lost with the directions, as my company pays for the car and the fuel.

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Old 25th May 2015, 14:40   #15
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Default Re: India: GPS vs asking locals for directions

I observe that most of the map applications employing GPS are somewhat poor in the last mile accuracy. So GPS for most of the route, and local public for the last mile.

Of course if I make observations about traffic conditions and map applications - pathetic and poor. In most cases the applications are plain wrong (with regard to average traffic speed and jams and congestion). So the potential to use for daily drive plummets immediately in my view.

*Apps under observation: here drive/maps, bing maps, google maps, waze.
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