Problems with GPS units


It's a problem many a lot of people have had at some point, getting totally lost because of the tool that's supposed to keep us on track, our GPS devices.

Experts say some devices are often working off different or outdated maps, causing big issues.

It was only supposed to be a day-trip into California's Death Valley for Donna Cooper, her daughter and a friend.

Relying on the GPS they nicknamed "Nell." But when they tried to return home - it was soon clear "Nell" was lost.

For 60-miles she says they were directed to roads that no longer exist. The temperatures were reaching 128 degrees. Fearing for their lives, they left messages on their car, then broke into a shelter to get out of the heat.

While rarely as dramatic, almost everyone has their own story of being led astray by their GPS. It turns out different GPS units use different map software, often created by teams who drive around in cars loaded with mapping gadgets. But not all units are up-to-date.

Near Boston, a woman with two kids claims that she followed her GPS instructions onto railroad tracks. They got out just before the train crushed their car.

In some remote areas, the GPS may be relying on really old government maps.

"It's definitely possible that there's data in there that's 10, 20, 40, 50 years old and would still show up on someone's GPS and be entirely wrong," says Bob Sullivan the NBC News.com technology reporter.

The folks who publish the Michelin Travel Maps did their own study, and found 30 percent of all adults use some sort of GPS unit.

And 63 percent of GPS users report having been led astray at least once by the GPS instructions.

Back in Death Valley, a helicopter rescue team found Donna Cooper and the kids after 3 days in the desert, just in time.

"People who get lost in Death Valley do not live, we were so very fortunate, I mean so very fortunate," says Donna Cooper.

The Coopers threw their old GPS in the trash and bought a new one. Technology Pros say it's important to update your GPS’s software often to get the latest available maps.

The good news, if your GPS is on your phone, it's probably automatically updating. And of course there's one other piece of old fashioned advice for a long trip, you can always bring a map.


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