Learning to Trust the GPS

As we travel around the country

Julia A. Keirns


Screenshot of the GPS on my phone. Photo by author.

I remember when there was no such thing as GPS or cell phones. We traveled with an atlas book in the car. We got lost a lot more often back then, but we get lost sometimes now too.

GPS was invented in 1973. The Global Positioning System, formally known as the Navstar Global Positioning System, was initiated as a joint civil/military technical program in 1973. It didn’t become available to the public until 1983 and that was only for air travel. President Ronald Reagan authorized the use of GPS by civilian commercial airlines in an attempt to improve navigation and safety for air travel. The first production car with a built-in GPS navigation system hit the roads in 1990. By that time we were married with two young children. And there was no way we could afford one of those expensive cars with a GPS system in it.

So how accurate is the GPS system nowadays?

According to gps.gov, it depends.

GPS satellites broadcast their signals in space with a certain accuracy, but what you receive depends on additional factors, including satellite geometry, signal blockage, atmospheric conditions, and receiver design features/quality.

As we travel around the country in areas we are not familiar with, we cause ourselves to be dependent on it to get us to where we want to go. More often than not, we wonder why it takes us down a certain back road instead of keeping us on the highway. Sometimes it will bring us to the back door of a business where the shipments are received instead of to the front door where customers are allowed to walk in.

Sometimes we tell the GPS to take us the fastest route, and sometimes we tell it to take us the shortest distance. But it never fails that occasionally we will look at each other and laugh about the road it turns us on.

I have told Rich more than once to just trust the GPS and no matter where it makes us turn, we will always get to the final destination, or at least close enough to figure it out. The journey is the best part, and if we just trust the GPS we will see something we wouldn’t have normally seen if we had chosen to stay on the highway.

What else do we have to do anyway? We have all the time in the world and getting lost once in a while is the best part of the journey.

By the way, we do still keep an atlas in the RV, just in case.



Julia A. Keirns

Currently living in an RV full time and traveling across North America. Follow along with us at www.jakeirns.com. The goal is simply to write about it.