GPS Nav Wishlist

I drive once in awhile and even though I’d much prefer to rely on someone/something else to tell me where to go, I’ve decided to memorize directions rather than use a GPS navigation software. Instead of the why, I’ve listed my wishlist for GPS navigation software. If these are taken care of, I probably no longer have to look at street view for every turn and use pen and paper like it’s the 90s.

Top Priority

Lane navigation. A passenger familiar with an area giving you directions tends to mention which lane you should stay in well before the next turn so you won’t have to force your way onto the neighboring lanes at the last second and potentially cause an accident. This can be extended to take into account streets with lots of cross streets where people queue to turn to or streets where a lane is occupied by parked cars (both further dependent on the time of day). A lot of drivers, especially inexperienced ones, find changing lanes under pressure (ie upcoming turn) very stressful and are more likely to make mistakes doing it.

Turn by landmark. Telling me to turn left in 500 meters is half useful. I’ve been driving for years but I’m not a tape measure. Especially when you have few streets close to one another. Mentioning the street name helps but not every street has a well placed sign (e.g. some covered by trees). Instead, directing me to turn at the gas station or two streets after the horse sculptures is easily followable. Given the state of image recognition today, this shouldn’t be too difficult to do.

Safety reminders. Speed limit being the most important one. Ancient GPS navs did this. Depending on your values, you either save money (by not paying a fine), save lives or both. A simple “slow down to 60” (with optional “pretty please with sugar on top”) will do. Additionally, reminding drivers to take breaks every two hours doing long distance driving is important as well.

Low risk routing. Some driving maneuvers, turns, etc are riskier than others. For instance, in Australia where people drive on the left side of the road, turning right at a two way cross street with no traffic light is riskier than turning left because in case of the former, one has to watch both directions for traffic. Likewise, doing a U-turn on a main road is riskier than doing one on a quiet side street. Often the extra time needed to avoid these risks is trivial.

Nice To Haves

Route by best experience. Being a human being has a lot of perks. One such perk is that absolute fast or short isn’t always perceived as the best. Time and time again, my GPS nav has told me (and most likely correctly) to take a main but traffic heavy road with lots of traffic lights, because it was the fastest route. However, I’ve had the worst experience of driving, by constantly accelerating/braking, getting cut-off by other frustrated drivers and just being in heavy traffic. Even though taking the bystreets may add 20% to the travel time and distance (and cost you more fuel), for some it’s a justified price to pay to get to your destination not feeling cranky and exhausted. And this need not be the default, but an extra option.

Overestimate travel time. I have not once managed to make it to a destination under the estimated time given by my GPS navs. That makes it unusable. It seems like the human brain does not get conditioned to overestimations even when you know it’s there. Why not capitalize on that for a better user experience?

Route to nearby parking spot. Just about every time I drive to an unfamiliar location, I have to bring up satellite imagery and street view to find entrances to parkings of shopping malls or street parkings with appropriate restrictions (e.g. time of day). If I’m on foot, navigating to exact addresses makes sense, but unless I’m dropping someone off and driving away, that’s not enough. Also, usability of hands-free navigation becomes that much better if this point is taken into account.

As you may have noticed, a recurrent theme in the list above is safety and it always has a bonus of making the driving experience better too.