SOUTH OF SEVEN OAKS — “Turn left at the next peacock crossing.” The Voice Lady in the dashboard is still talking to me. “Make a U-turn across the median.” And so it goes. I have a new Global Positioning System or GPS. Well, it’s new to me. I understand Vasquez de Coronado used one when he was seeking the Seven Cities of Gold. (Maybe GPS stands for Gold Prospecting System.) My wife and I are trying to drive from Houston to Tyler, an easy trip up East Texas on Highway 59 to Lufkin, then on Highway 69 to Tyler. Since most of my previous trips have to the barber, grocery store, tattoo parlor and bail bondsman, I have not needed my GPS until now.
You probably have one, and know how it works. When you get in the car and punch the correct button, a mysterious live voice comes on and asks for your destination. Then a recorded voice tells you where to go, when to turn, where’s the nearest rest stop, hidden state trooper and, of course, the nearest City of Gold. But not always. When we gave the destination, a map came on the dashboard screen showing three routes. Huh? There was only one route unless we wanted to see the Big Thicket, Waco or Galveston on the way. Thumbs Ashby must have picked the wrong route, or maybe the GPS is a worthless machine, because from the first few feet out of the driveway the Voice Lady kept telling us we were going the wrong way. “Make a U-turn at the next intersection.” “Turn around and take a right.” “Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go.” “In one mile of the left there is nothing to see.” And I can’t shut her up.
“Turn left at Waco.” I don’t want to go to Waco! “OK, get lost. See if I care.” The Voice Lady seems to be edgy today. Just as I am trying to master the GPS and catch up with the rest of humanity, I remember reading an article in the newspaper saying that GPS navigation systems such as Garmin and TomTom, which were all the rage just a few years ago, are becoming obsolete. “Now, most consumers are more likely to put their map-equipped smartphone in the cup holder. Google’s Android Autodashboard system means Google Maps will now be on a car’s main screen, making a separate GPS device unnecessary,” the article said. But you can’t trust the liberal media.
What’s more, automakers’ efforts to build navigation systems will also be obsolete because many are clunky, and the maps they contain are often outdated. “They will seem even more so when compared with the continually updated mapping and traffic reports from Android Auto or CarPlay.” I have no idea what Android Autodashboard and Android Auto or CarPlay mean, but this does mean my car’s built-in GPS is becoming obsolete. Great, and I just got rid of my built-in eight-track Betamax. “In a quarter of a mile, you will be one quarter of a mile farther.” Thanks, Voice Lady. Maybe you can tell me where I am. Oh, there’s a sign. Highway 59. Lufkin ahead. How did anyone ever find their way before the GPS came along?
Speaking of out-of-date new breakthroughs, do you have an app in your car, purse or duffle bag? Sorry, that is so last Thursday. “Who needs a version of Pandora just for a Chevrolet or a Ford, when consumers will already have that app on their phone-powered screen?” the article said. Another message: “In half a mile make a right turn into a speeding Peterbilt.” I think the Voice Lady is trying to get rid of me. Looking around your car before the Smithsonian wants it for display, now is the time to say goodbye to the MP3 music player, or even songs stored on your phone. According to that news story, Android Auto and CarPlay feature streaming music from their huge libraries, and services like Pandora and iHeartRadio will offer apps as well. So toss your apps.
How about your car’s CD player? My old car could hold five or six CDs and would play for an hour or more. This new car is retro — it only plays one CD at a time, and plays it and plays it. But CDs are on their way out. They still come included in many new cars, because they’re super cheap to produce and for car companies to install, so they’re still in a lot of vehicles even as consumers’ actual use of CDs is on a steep decline. People buying a new car these days want to receive smartphone-based music, whether via Bluetooth or a cord. This means my car’s CD player is Stone Aged. Maybe it can still play old songs. After all, until 2010, Lexus still offered a sedan with a cassette player.
The article isn’t even discussing car radios. Remember the old days when you had a knob on the dashboard that turned the radio off or on and adjusted the volume, and a second knob that ran the needle back and forth to select the stations? Then came buttons pre-set to a station, am and fm, stereo and satellite. This radio has a cursor on the console that lets me move a little white box around the screen on the dashboard until I hear a loud Bang! This means that, while I was busy moving the cursor, I ran into the car stopped in front of me. And no ashtray. I get tired of tossing my cigar butts out the window. Is this planned obsolescence? Every new gadget is instantly ancient. I take my brand-new desk top computer out of the box and my son says, “Oh, you got one of those old models. Is it steam powered?”
Vasquez de Coronado never did find the Seven Cities of Gold, and now I know why.
Ashby is lost at firstname.lastname@example.org