GPS and Car Rallies

A couple of thoughts on the Rental Car Rally, which ran earlier this month between New York and Montreal. First, here’s CNet’s Caroline McCarthy’s take on the event:

The surprising truth? A large number of the driving squads had nothing but paper maps on them, making the overnight rally — with six backroad checkpoints, most of which were marked with nothing but a set of coordinates, to ensure that you couldn’t just take I-87 the whole way — a pretty difficult affair. But even with GPS, there was some head-scratching when everyone’s Garmins and TomToms navigated them right to the shores of Lake Champlain and recommended that they take a ferry. The gadgets were right: teams that drove onto the Grand Isle ferry arrived in Montreal hours before teams that chose to drive around the lake.

As I said, a couple of thoughts. First, car rally rules have changed to make use of available technology. In the car rallies my parents competed in forty years ago, a set of coordinates would never have been used; they counted left and right turns. GPS has changed the game. And on that note, it’s interesting that the rally’s directions were implicitly based on following the GPS, but not every team was prepared to offer their gadgets that implicit trust. Can’t imagine why.