I believe that I am of the generation that fully believes traditional maps have little value now that we have GPS technology. I actually was just having this conversation with a friend when we took a road trip where we had to cross several states. We both have iPhones and were using the GPS tracker/map system on it feverishly. I cannot imagine how we would have gotten there safely/correctly/efficiently without it. We were talking about the days when we would print out directions or use a map to get somewhere and how much more difficult it was. If you make a mistake or take a wrong turn, it becomes really stressful to recalibrate. On our iPhone GPS, you just “edit” your route and all of a sudden the wrong turn is okay. The other great aspect to GPS technology is that is constantly tells you where are you located. I know I require this aspect because I can see how close in proximity I am to my destination or next turn.
Traditional maps have historic significance and limited use, as they represent the previous landscape of the earth and provide a back up for when your GPS isn’t working. GPS has significantly changed not just how people traveling but how municipalities and utility companies locate their underground services, how survey crews perform their work, etc. In my line of work our survey crew used to require two people. Now with GPS we have been able to run with one person in the field with one “robot” or GPS unit to do the work of the second person. We provide a GIS mapping service to many of our municipal clients that uses GPS to locate the exact location of all of their valves and other underground services and then translate that on to a map for them. It reduces the amount of accidental breakages because they can properly locate their services for contractors in the field.
Over the next 15 years, I believe that traditional maps will no longer be in use or be printed. GPS will become much more fine tuned. I believe every new car that is manufactured will have GPS already built it. I believe every phone that is created and sold will have a top of the line GPS/mapping system available. In major cities, there may even be interactive GPS/mapping systems for public use by parks, major intersections, etc.
Clark is a writer for Tennessee Speed Sport. You can see their site or follow him on twitter @wallshark84