Well, I don’t know, but submitted for your edification: Have GPS Devices Taken the Fun out of Navigation?
If we are, in fact, ditching the map for flashier gear, will we be better off? Maybe not. A study conducted in Tokyo found that pedestrians exploring a city with the help of a GPS device took longer to get places, made more errors, stopped more frequently and walked farther than those relying on paper maps. And in England, map sales dropped by 25 percent for at least one major printer between 2005 and 2011. Correlation doesn’t prove causation—but it’s interesting to note that the number of wilderness rescues increased by more than 50 percent over the same time period.
I’m not sure about the “wilderness rescues” increasing by more than 50% is real or not, although it does seem like we’re at least hearing more stories of people who followed their GPS into a snowed-in mountain road (or into a lake). I’ve kind of resisted getting one myself, at least not the sort that just tells you where to turn and stuff. The only couple of times I’ve been in a vehicle using one it’s taken us on all manner of bizarre routes — and we eventually ended up getting out a paper map, finding our location, and then figuring it out ourselves. OTOH, I’m all for good digital maps, since those you can use to zoom in and out to whatever scale you want. We’ve used those several times to find our way in more remote areas and to locate survey areas that aren’t really that legible on paper maps — or if there are paper maps they’re usually not handy. Still, things like Google Maps have often led me astray, showing roads that weren’t there — I think they often interpolate, assuming a road that ends in one location and starts up in another in a straight line, for example, is actually there in the missing area when it’s not.
Besides, it’s just more fun, IMO, to navigate one’s way somewhere without being told exactly how to get there. For one thing, you get a sense (as the article notes) of what the whole area looks like, not just the single route you’re told to take. And even when you screw up, you end up seeing (and therefore knowing about) other areas as well.