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Rex Turner – GPS Consultant

Here is an interview GPSEngineer.com did with the WashingtonExaminer.com when they investigated accidents that occured from innacurate GPS Map data.
The original link is Faulty GPS Makes VA Neighborhood Truck Obstacle Course

Faulty GPS makes Va. neighborhood a truck obstacle course

By: Leah Fabel 04/27/11 8:05 PM

Examiner Staff Writer Follow Her @lfabel

Stranded semi-trucks, sent astray by errant GPS systems, have fouled up a tiny 1940s-era neighborhood tucked between South King’s Highway and Route 1 in Alexandria, leaving Fairfax County and the state to find a fix for fallible technology.

Several times a month, tractor-trailers and other enormous vehicles miss a tricky turn from North King’s Highway onto traffic-heavy Route 1, home to mega-destinations like Target, Office Depot and Lowe’s. Instead, the vehicles wind up on South King’s Highway, neighborhood resident Edward Walker recently told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. From there, GPS technology sends the truckers on a shortcut back to Route 1 – on narrow, steep Pickett and Franklin streets, where the trucks and buses simply can’t fit.

Walker approached county supervisors armed with photos of a truck jack-knifed, another in a ditch, another forced to back out onto busy South King’s Highway, as well as pictures of broken trees, mangled fences and rutted lawns.

“Those were just three examples,” he said of the stranded trucks. “And two were from this month alone.”

The supervisors gasped audibly at Walker’s presentation – the last bit of business during a nearly 12-hour meeting. They agreed unanimously to pass along to Virginia’s Department of Transportation a recommendation to shut down the streets to truck traffic.

“A picture was worth a thousand words,” said Fairfax Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova. “There’s no doubt the state will agree to restrict truck through-traffic on those streets.”

A fix likely won’t arrive for nearly a year, however. First, VDOT has to study the county’s no-truck recommendation, and then GPS companies need to get around to updating their systems. That’s a quarterly process, said a spokeswoman for Garmin International Inc., a GPS manufacturer. Companies then rely on the GPS owner’s diligence in downloading updates.

“It’s really hard to assign blame,” said Rex Turner, a GPS engineer and consultant. “The person using them bears some of the responsibility.”

And then there are the limitations of the mapping technology, which depends on government data, satellite imagery, and a small army of analysts who drive street to street, town to town.

“Let’s say you’re in charge of mapping the entire world – every road, every street, every neighborhood in every city – and they’re constantly changing,” Turner said. “You’d be pulling your hair out.”

lfabel@washingtonexaminer.com

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