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Doug's Mailbag: Google or the User's Fault?

There have been a huge amount of responses to the case of Lauren Rosenburg's navigation accident. Here's some of your responses:

A couple of years ago, my wife and I drove to Des Moines, Iowa, to attend an event there. Because we wanted to make a weekend of it, we booked a room at a new hotel on the east edge of town. I printed out driving directions from Google Maps so we'd have a hardcopy to guide us as we drove.

We reached the exit on the interstate where we were to turn left and cross the bridge over the highway to get to our hotel. The only problem with this maneuver was that it directed us to an empty field. In fact, the hotel was visible from the ramp, but to the right, rather than to the left and across the bridge. I took matters into my own hands at that point and decided, against the advice of Google Maps, that I was going to go my own way.

Long story short, the weekend was a lot of fun, and we had a great stay at the hotel. The fact that the Google Maps data was totally wrong was just an indication that you have to use common sense when following directions.

This whole situation is relevant to far more than just going from point A to point B geographically. How many times have we been installing or using computer software when we have to "adapt" the instructions to what we actually see on the screen? How many times are the assembly instructions for some consumer purchase less than clear, and we have to work around that shortcoming? How many times has there been an article in a newspaper or magazine that said one thing, and actually meant another, through a misunderstanding on the part of the reporter? In all these situations, we have to be active participants, rather than passive spectators blandly accepting what we're given.

In the case of Ms. Rosenberg, I won't say she was stupid. She could well be called naïve, or gullible, to think that walking along a highway that carries a lot of traffic is going to be a totally safe activity. Did she have no one around her who could give her directions? Was she incapacitated in some way? Who knows? Suing Google for what sounds like her own carelessness seems typical of modern-day America, but I still think the suit should be thrown out. I know enough, however, to expect that she'll get a settlement, and probably her fifteen minutes of fame from all this, however undeserved.

Will I use Google Maps in the future? You bet. I've got it on my phone, and I've used it often. Will I trust it blindly? No -- I've got far too much skepticism about the overall reliability of the data that Maps includes to want to do that. But it is a very handy guide.

Thanks for your reporting on this.
-Dennis

While I feel bad that Rosenberg was hit by a car and feel that the Google mobile app is certainly lacking some important features the full Web version has, she didn't use the good sense that God gave her. This case should not see the inside of a courtroom.

Great writing. Please keep it up.
-Kevin

If there were no cars when she went down the street then it was a good idea. If there were a lot of cars then it was probably a bad idea. But in the end, it was up to her to use her best judgment according to the situation she found herself in and judging by the result she made a bad choice. Can't blame that one on Google any more than if I was using a GPS unit that said I could turn left, but the arrow on the sign in front of me says I can only turn right.
-Jim

An imbecile, clearly.

My car does not warn me that if I drive it into a lake that I will likely drown.
Food packages do not warn me that if I eat too many frozen pizzas that I will barf.
Washington does not warn us that if we elect stupid leaders that our country will suffer.

Shall I sue BMW? Tombstone Pizza? Obama?

If I ever met Lauren, I'd have two words for her (maybe four)
"HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY" and/or "COMMON SENSE."
-Daniel

My vote -- Rosenberg was stupid.
-Scott

Stupid is as stupid does. Google is not at fault. She chose to walk down the road. If I told her to jump off a bridge and she did it, would it be my fault? We are responsible for our own decisions and actions. Now if she paid Google to instruct her where to go, maybe she has a case. She will win her money just because Google will desire her to go away quietly.
-Joe

Why do people insist on abdicating responsibility for their own actions? She should sue her parents for not having a child smart enough to know not to go into an unsafe situation.
-Deborah

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/11/2010 at 9:03 AM


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