Friday, April 12, 2019

No, Siri!

We live in age of marvels, although I'm sure anybody driving a car and watching planes in the 1910's would have said much the same.

One of those marvels is the so-called "Smart Phone", or just phone, typically "iPhone", to anybody under the age of 40! 😀  It was the introduction of the iPhone3 in 2007 that really started the ball rolling on these devices, and given the impact they've had on work and business, it's sometimes hard to believe that they've only been around a little over a decade.

A whole host of devices, such as video cameras, SLR cameras (really any cameras at all), music players, voice recorders and so forth, have been marginalised by the miraculous smart-phone. In a rare case of successful cannibalisation, Apple even thrived as the iPhone destroyed its previous wonder-toy, the iPod, for whom Podcasts are the only living remanent of that early 2000's device.

The apps available have also meant that many young people don't even much bother with a laptop, let alone a desktop computer. There are Apps for navigation, weather forecasts, fishing, star-gazing, and a million other uses, not to mention the horrors of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram - although gaming message systems such as Discord have been supplanting the first two. The youngin's at Beloved Child's university all went with Discord for group work, the Gen Z hatred of Facebook and Twitter being the driver. There are even apps which give the average rifle shooter the sort of detailed ballistics calculations which, as recently as a decade ago, were available only to military snipers.

But there are still limits on what these things can do, and my recent trip to Wellington showed that, in vivid and annoying detail, and also what it means to become reliant on technology.

A year or so ago, Beloved and I were driving to Auckland on the Southern Motorway when Siri told us to pull off at Papakura. Mystified and not pressed for time, we decided to follow the directions through the backstreets before rejoining the motorway. At which point we found out that there had been a crash on the motorway that had caused huge traffic jams.

Clever Siri.

Clearly, it was getting informaton from the NZTA, as has been the case with foreign traffic control systems for some years now.

And so we come to this week's trip: a joyride to Wellington. As those of you in the region will know, there are some fairly extensive local roadworks that have been underway over the last year. Not just Transmission Gully, which has actually not interfered that much, but works from Levin through Otaki to join the Northern end of the Kapiti Expressway. Otaki in particular has been a pain, with a new roadbridge being built over the top of the railway. This is probably also enabling the new Expressway, but it's hard to tell. In any case it's a mess and when my son and I drove down last year we hit terrible traffic jams in the area. The second time, Siri sent us through country back roads to the East, which landed us back in Otaki but past the worst of the traffic. I expected the same this time, and leaving from the Waikato that's what Siri showed.

Until Taihape, where we were suddenly presented with this on the car's screen:

No, Siri! 

A diversion through Palmerston North (shudder), and then East through the Wairarapa? Or a longer divert through Fielding, turning off in the heart of the Rangitikei River area. Okay - so vineyards but...

So what the hell did Siri know about the coastal SH1 roadworks that we did not? This caused a problem because we had figured we'd be in Wellington by 3:30 or so, just in time to pick up Beloved Child direct from the end of the varsity day, for a birthday dinner. This was looking like a pickup from the flat at 5ish: a pain in the ass for everybody. We decided to press on to Bulls/Sanson and see what she said then.

No, Siri.

Note that at no stage was the SH1 "option" even presented, which would be a problem in the tap-and-go mode with which drivers are supposed to be able to use these things while driving, in the same way as changing songs. Luckily there were two of us.

With a little effort, I was able to force it to show Levin to Wellington and get the key data: 1 hour 26 minutes. Ok - so what the hell were all the diversions about? Again we ignore her and press on to Levin. Only to be presented with this "option".

No, Siri

Seriously? An almost four hour diversion involving backtracking a good 50-80km? Bugger that for a game of soldiers. But of course the worry you get nowadays is wondering whether Siri is right and you're wrong. What then? A completely stuffed up birthday?

In the end, it turned out that the new Otaki roadbridge had been opened to traffic, and while work continued all around it and beyond, there were no traffic problems at all, certainly not like 2018. We were in the Capital by 3:40pm and all was well.

What I think has happened here is that while Siri may get updates from the NZTA they're not up-to-date and they probably don't include actual traffic volumes. Even so, if I could build a route showing a total time from Taihape of about 3 hours, why could Siri not do so? Isn't she supposed to be "Smart"?

We were ready for her on the return trip, having seen the conditions ourselves and as you might guess, this is what she showed us as the optimum choices for driving North:

No, Siri.

She'll improve of course, as all these things do. But what happens when people stop looking at the world outside their screens, when what the computer displays for you becomes your reality? When you're living in the world of Neuromancer?


gravedodger said...

When I purchased my first GPS I asked it to get me from Akaroa to my Dr in Ferrymead as a test sitting in my lazyboy.
Akaroa, Duvauchelle, Pigeon Bay, Holmes Bay, Port Levy, Purau, Diamond Harbour, Teddington, Raupaki, Lyttleton, through the tunnel to Heathcote to the Ferry Rd roundabout, take third exit?
Didn't recognise the shortcut via Stock route and Middle Rd to Pigeon Bay, that would have saved 5 minutes if Vogan didnt have his cows on the stockroute.
Strange also I guess it didn't go over Dyers Pass, there is another saving, Governors Bay to the Tunnel is very slow.

"Reality; SH 75 to Halswell, Sparks Rd, right onto Brougham at Gasson through Woolston, Ferry Rd.

Andrei said...

Everyone knows that the Google Assistant pisses all over Siri and that Google Maps is light years ahead of Apple Maps as a navigation tool.

I use a TomTom GPS which gets real time traffic updates via the Vodafone network and Google Maps in combination. Google maps seems to pick up things more quickly outside of Auckland and Wellington - I think I know why. The Alphabet corporation (Google) is a kind of scary company in that collects lots of data from everybody by default unless they are savy enough to opt out
and one of the things they do is monitor where your phone is and how fast it is moving which in combination with everybody elses data tells them real time traffic flows - I think that is how they do it

Tom Hunter said...


I agree. Was almost tempted to fire up the hotspot and check Google Maps. Having said that I'm trying to de-link myself from Google as far as possible. I don't trust the bastards.

Having said that I note that my iPhone is marking "Parked Car" being 20m away from where I sit, which is pretty accurate and ... not sure what it means re tracking. I didn't turn Bluetooth off on the car? It operates even when the car is off? The AI figured I must have parked a car after covering such a distance? Hmmm

David said...

Having said that I'm trying to de-link myself from Google as far as possible. I don't trust the bastards.

Then why do you blog on a Google platform? there are many other ways to host a blog.

Money where your mouth is time.

Tom Hunter said...

Talk to Psycho. I was just invited to comment here.

Psycho Milt said...

We (authorship at the time) looked at moving to WordPress in the late 2000s, but we would have had to change the URL and there weren't enough benefits to justify it. Of course, in the years since then, we've had plenty of occasions to wish we had WordPress' superior capabilities for identifying or blocking people we could do without (not implying anything, this goes back a decade), but we're also none of us doing this for a living and changing platforms is a pain in the arse.

Lord Egbut Nobacon said...

WTF was that about........

Psycho Milt said...

It was about David's question "why do you blog on a Google platform? there are many other ways to host a blog." I should probably have quoted the original question.

Noel said...

My first Navman, brought with Fly Buys, said to stop at the traffic lights at the end of our rural road. Kids loved it and always wanted it turned on when school mates were bludging a lift to the school bus stop.

Anonymous said...

Very confused Chunter, please enlighten me. According to you your dad was fighting in the Western desert (1943) with mine and I have a grandson about to start UNI (varsity fell out of favour about 1980).

How is it you have a son/daughter at Uni?

Does your time machine have a Tom Tom or Garmin?

SouthPac Cynic said...

Not too hard .for our situation we have first born just started at Uni. Better half was the last born in her family in 1966. Father was in North Africa 43,44 then Italy. We're slightly late starters but the key was late birth of my wife.

Lord Egbut Nobacon said...

......not enough data CP. Key is mothers DoB. |In the 60's it was very unusual for woman to to give birth over the age of fact it was discouraged.

Anonymous said...

Interesting timelines in the previous posts. Hunter claimed is father went from probationary policeman in 1937 which was minimum age 21 to a detective in two years and then had a bout of patriotism and joined the army in 1939. Even by todays fasttracking standards that would be impossible.

Detectives were a reserved occupation because there were only about 100 of them in NZ in 1939 and if he did join up he would have have been asked to join the military police and been nowhere near Sidi Rezegh where he was supposedly captured.

My brother was a cop in 1965 so put me on to the NZ archives.

Peter Hopkins