Friday, March 7, 2008

TomTom vs MapQuest Printout

I spent yesterday morning having a computer speak to me. As I traveled out to Cong. Norm Dicks conference room for a SEED educational meeting, the voice from the TomTom system calmly let us know that we needed to “turn left in 600 yards”, “turn left”, “stay to the right and take the freeway”.

I sat there in the passenger seat with my MapQuest printout feeling outmatched by this system. Whereas my directions in hand gave me a sense of being in control, the talking voice just seemed so sure of itself.

Then we diverged for a moment. I gave the driver the instructions to stay right and TomTom said to turn left. I pointed to the map and said, “the building is right here at the end of 304”. The driver asked, “which is it, left or right?”

"Right" I said clutching my printout. "Left" said TomTom. The driver went right and it occurred to me in short order that we may have benefited from going left.

“Turn left in 100 yards” said TomTom.

“Maybe you should take a left”, I told the driver.

We turned left and TomTom said, “In 500 yards turn right”.

We were both on the same track, but the TomTom system with its GPS driven map display was able to update its instructions. In other words, we could have driven past the destination point by a mile and it would have started to insist that we turn the car around. I thought that the self adjustment was pretty cool. Not that we wouldn’t have gotten there. We could have turned left further down the road I was taking, but the building was off of 6th and the directions the system gave us put us on 6th.

I love my MapQuest printouts with their point to point time estimates and step by step instructions. But this systems was kicking its butt.

When we left the building it instructed us to turn left. We did. There was construction and a detour so we had to make a turn. The system adjusted and told to turn up ahead. We did. It said to make another left. We did. Back to the construction detour. Ahhhhh!!!! An infinite loop. We are still there driving in circles around the block.

OK, we’re not, but I felt good for a moment and hugged my printout.

In all, I was really impressed by the TomTom system. I talked to the driver about his experience with it, and it was pretty clear that he used it frequently and it was incredibly helpful to him in getting around. I would definitely see a strong value in owning it. I also still like to use MapQuest, as it gives me a conceptual idea of the travel distance and time before heading out the door.

The step by step instructions of the printout are no match for the voice of TomTom however, when you consider the safety of not having to peer over at the paper and find the next step in your trip.

Interestingly, the one thing I found grating about the voice (which you can turn off of course) was when it continued to give instructions when we returned to an area I was quite familiar with. It was like having that annoying backseat driver constantly telling you what to do.

“In 200 yards, turn right”.

“I don’t want to turn right and deal with the Link and the lights.”

“Turn right.”


“In 500 yards, turn left.”

“No duh.”

“You have arrived at your destination.”

“Yeah, I know, I drove.”

“Don’t talk to me that way, Andrew.”

“Open the pod bay doors, TomTom.”

“I’m sorry, Andrew, I can’t do that.”


Anonymous said...

We recently bought a Magellan Maestro and we love it (without it, I think we'd still be trying to find our way to the Miami Port Authority), but it IS a bit disconcerting being bossed around by a disembodied voice. Of course, in spite of the absence of basic manners (no "please" or "thank you", just "TURN LEFT NOW"), I'm surprised by how polite our GPS is. If we miss an exit or turn too soon, our Maestro simply pauses a moment and then says "recalculating", when you know it's thinking "you moron, I TOLD you where to turn, now I have to figure out a way to get you back on track".

Anonymous said...

I have a Magellan as well and it is incredible. This little GPS unit can give you up-to-the-minute arrival times, speed and direction of where you are traveling, and location of the closest coffee shop or service station as you are approaching them. You can ask it for fastest time or shortest distance. No, I am not a salesperson for Magellan, but as you can tell, I love my GPS and to me, Mapquest is a faint memory. lol

Steve Vaught said...

I'm glad I found your post.

I don't like the time difference between Mapquest and tomtom. Also Mapquest seems to keep you on the main roads whereas tomtom had you turning down a lot of streets.

I do like the step by step voice instruction. You can't beat that!

Question: Do you calculate your time by mapquest and then take the tomtom route?

Droid116 said...

I will gauge the approximate time through Mapquest and go with that.

It usually gives me a rough idea and you can never count on traffic to be what you would expect.

giraffeonice said...

Hi Andrew,

I just bought a tomtom one 3rd edition and I really like it. I am actually going to be traveling quite a bit to some places I've never been before. And like Steve said in the post above yours, the time difference between mapquest and tomtom is concerning. I am traveling from Jackson Tn to Tuscaloosa Alabama and mapquest says it takes only 3 hours and 50 something minutes. While my tomtom says 5 hours and 25 minutes. I personally don't care how nice it is to have the tomtom if it is going to take me 2 more hours to get where I'm going just by using it. Do you think that mapquest and tomtom just aren't synced up with their speeds or what? I am really annoyed because I've searched for a good gps and I think this is one, but that is just ridiculous. Please let me know what you think. I'm actually leaving in a couple days and need to decide which one to ignore or if it the speed limit setting is just different.
I hope I didn't spend that much money for nothing because the gps takes a substantially longer time than mapquest on every route I put in. I'd rather not find out by trial and error.

Thank you for your time

Anonymous said...

You should not waste your time with MapQuest. Much better: Give it a try.

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