Sunday, October 02, 2011

Amusingly persistent TomTom

kw: observations, travel, computers

We spent the afternoon and early evening with our son in Edison, NJ. He is in graduate school at nearby Rutgers. On the way home, I was showing my wife how to use the GPS, a TomTom unit that I really like. Getting there she had learned to program in the address we were going to, and learn to cope with the sometimes frequent admonishments and directions. In particular, today the traffic conditions kept changing, and it offered several times to change the route to compensate, but we know that traffic delays appear and vanish in the Princeton area frequently, so we kept telling it "No" (It is one of the ones that takes voice commands).

The programming for the return trip was totally easy: the first screen had the options of "Home" and "Another Destination", so we said, "Home" and we were off. Or so we thought. After trundling along checking about 80,000 road choices it announced that the quickest way had tolls. There are three ways to get between Edison and Highway 95 near Ridley Park, PA. One is via the NJ Turnpike, and seems to be the way the GPS favors, so when it asked if tolls were OK I said, "No".

Getting down US Hwy 1 toward Trenton was no problem. As expected, the unit was directing us toward Philadelphia on I-95. We ignored that ramp and took the next one, toward I-295, which we always take to US 130 and 322 to cross the Barry Bridge at Chichester, PA. At the time that we were approaching the I-95 ramp, the expected arrival at home was 8:54 PM. Once we were well on I-295, and the unit had recalculated, this changed to 9:02. This seemed about right, but then I saw it was trying to take us off the next exit and make a U-turn. When we passed that exit, it recalculated, and set up a U-turn at the next exit.

It did so for every exit between milepost 65 on I-295 until we got to US 130, where we were sure it would "let" us go the way we were planning, to 322 and across the bridge. But it persisted. I finally realized that the Barry Bridge has a $5 toll, and I had told it "No tolls". It was still trying to get us back to the Trenton bridge, the only one without a toll! By this time it was estimating our arrival home as after 10:30 PM!! Once we were approaching the toll booths and there were no other choices, the GPS finally displayed a path across the bridge and reset its time of arrival as 8:59 PM. We actually drove into our driveway right at 9:00.

One consequence of all this nagging by the GPS, in its neutral female voice (though I began to imagine growing desperation), was that I needed no caffeine to keep me awake on the 2-hour drive.I usually get a large soda, a cola with caffeine, about ten miles into the trip out of Edison, but this time I neglected it, and didn't need it. My wife and I were discussing how persistent the unit was. A naggy GPS may be a wakefulness promoter, but I don't think I'll do this the same way again. Now that I know why, I'd just find it absurdly irritating.

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