So You Think You Can Beat Your GPS

My biggest pet peeve when I’m in an Uber/Lyft are drivers who think they can beat the GPS. They make their own route. Some will brag about it too. They explain they’re avoiding traffic, or that they’ve lived here their entire lives and know the routes better.

Nobody tells me when to turn!

It’s true, there was a time when navigation software wasn’t that great and you could conceivably do better if you knew the area well. Early versions would plot the shortest route by distance, unaware of speed limits, route capacity, traffic… sometimes unaware of forbidden turns or one way streets. Sometimes blind to the existence of certain streets entirely! But that time has past.

The best navigation apps today, your Google Maps, your Waze… they know it all.

You, Uber driver, you think this avenue is faster than the stop-ridden street your app is recommending? Why? ‘Cause your gut says so? Well guess what, Google timed it. In fact they probably timed it today! And yesterday. And they will again tomorrow. Every time someone takes that route with the navigation on, they’re collecting data.

So when their app plots a route for you, it’s because it has consistently performed better under similar conditions (like the time of day, maybe even the weather!). Are you accounting for all that in your calculations? How many trip times are you averaging in your mind before you figure you know the best route?

When you choose to ignore the recommended route you are entering a competition. Make no mistake, your navigation app will check who the winner is based on whether or not you beat the original time estimate. One man versus hundreds of engineers harnessing the power of thousands of computers collecting data from millions of drivers. Your odds aren’t looking good.