GPS unit’s terrible UI

March 12, 2007

I got a GPS mapping receiver from Thrifty car rental while I’m stuck in Boston for the week. When I enter the tunnel from the airport to Boston, I lose the satellite signal. What should a GPS UI do at this point? This one displays a giant message “No satellite connection” (or something) and completely obscures the map. Now I’m driving blind through the tunnels with no hope of getting anywhere until I reach the surface. This is a horrible, miserable, idiotic user interface. A better UI should, of course, inform the driver that the satellite signal is gone. Then it should display the map with turn-by-turn directions based on the last place it knew I was at. That is, the GPS unit should gracefully degrade from live vehicle tracking to a standard Web driving direction site (like Google map). All is has to do is download the next few miles of directions & maps onto the unit. Does any GPS unit get this right?

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