Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Do Navigation Devices Portray "Reality"?

A recent New York Times article discusses how small villages in England are being overrun by large trucks driving through their narrow streets based upon directions taken from navigation devices. These directions provide for the shortest route, with no regards to the adequacy of the streets for such travel. As a result, there have been a number of accidents - mostly involving fences and side mirrors - and increased traffic on roads "built in the days of horses and carts".

There were two quotes in particular that I thought had significance from a product liability standpoint. Dick Snauwaert, a spokesman for Tele Atlas is quoted as saying " We map the reality - the streets, the signposts and the road infrastructure as it is in reality. We cannot change that reality in our database. Who are we to make a change and say, 'You cannot drive in that road' if , in reality, you can drive in that road" Geoff Dossettter, a spokesman for the Freight Transport Assocation, is quoted as saying "Foreign drivers very much depend on sat nav systems when they're coming to a different country, and they are following them rather more blindly than they ought to."

From a potential liability standpoint, "reality" is a very high standard to achieve, particularly with regards to consumer products. This standard becomes even more challenging if one knows that consumers are "blindly" relying on your products.

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