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Editorial Advisory Board PNT Q&A: GPS in popular culture

March 1, 2021  - By
Photo: KenWiedemann/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: KenWiedemann/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

What is your pet peeve about how GPS/GNSS is portrayed or discussed in the media and popular culture?

Headshot: Terry Moore

Terry Moore, professor emeritus, University of Nottingham

“What really annoys me is the misinformed assumption that SatNav and GNSS are one and the same. There is now a proliferation of ‘Do Not Follow SatNav’ signs [in the United Kingdom], and so many anecdotal stories about accidents caused by drivers blindly following SatNavs in their vehicles. These are almost always due to the deficiencies of the mapping and the route guidance components of the SatNav systems and not due to any problem with GNSS whatsoever. Nevertheless, it is GNSS that takes the blame.”

Terry Moore
University of Nottingham

Headshot: Julian Thomas

Julian Thomas
Managing Director

“In films, you often see what looks like the tracking of a person inside a building using GPS. Yet, this cannot be done currently with satellites and the kind of technology that can track people or objects indoors is highly specialized and localized to that environment.”

Julian Thomas
Racelogic Ltd.



Headshot: Stuart Riley

Stuart Riley, vice president of GNSS technology, Trimble

“My pet peeve is the oversimplification of consumer navigation issues. I ran a few searches for ‘GPS fails’ and almost immediately saw images of cars in water and stuck in narrow streets. All too often, this is attributed to a GPS issue or failure. From a consumer perspective, the overall system from maps to satellites is considered GPS. The reality is that GPS (the satellites and control segment) is extremely reliable. Historically, satellite issues have been minimal. The most likely navigation errors are routing errors and old or erroneous maps, coupled with users blindly following the directions, and, to a lesser extent, receiver design issues (e.g., lack of ICD compliance) and harsh conditions (deep urban canyons).”

Stuart Riley

Mitch Narins

Mitch Narins

“For many, GPS/GNSS remains the miracle cure for all that ails you — for position/surveillance (e.g., ADS-B), for navigation (RNAV and RNP), and for the largest user base, time and frequency. Even while acknowledging the risks, many still treat GPS/GNSS interference as the 500-year flood that will ‘never’ happen in their lifetimes and, if it does, can be excused away as force majeure. It seems that in most of the articles I read it is always a sunny day and GPS/GNSS works perfectly. The need to incorporate resiliency is never emphasized. Nobody would buy a car without a spare tire. Isn’t it time for GPS/GNSS users to recognize the need and insist that an appropriate PNT ‘spare’ be included in the deal?”

Mitch Narins

Headshot: F. Michael Swiek

Headshot: F. Michael Swiek

“We can chuckle while watching spies, super sleuths, and adventurers receive GPS positions in incredibly challenged environments — even in caves. My main beef is that nowhere is any mention made of who operates GPS. Instead, GPS is treated as an assumed given, embedded in a smart device, constantly and reliably available on demand anywhere and under all conditions. It is about time recognition and credit is given to those who actually make the miracle of GPS happen.”

Michael Swiek
GPS Alliance

About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at or 541-543-0525.