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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lost? Ask the Gas Pump!

This is a very interesting new technology that will be made available throughout the country starting next month. Rather, the technology itself isn't very new, but the placement and application of it is quite remarkable. It's one that makes you stop and think, "Why hasn't anyone done this before?"

Google Maps will soon be located on gas pumps. You can get directions to landmarks, hotels, restaurants or hospitals. You can even print out those directions before heading back out on your way - now sure of where you're going and how you're going to get there.

The pumps, made by Gilbarco Veeder-Root, will include an Internet connection. The Google Map feature will be available (in color!) on a small screen located on the pump. So far, the technology being used is simply a scrolling menu through various categories and choosing pre-selected destinations. Think of it more as a very-helpful travel guide of sorts. In the future, Gilbarco Veeder-Root hopes to include the ability to enter in an address to get directions, making the feature genuinely invaluable. For now, if you're lost on your way to the party, you'd better hope you know of a local landmark located nearby and hope for the best.

This is mostly geared towards travelers and road-trippers who might be looking for a place to crash for the night, grab a bite to eat, find the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota or possibly just to reattach a severed thumb. I'm hoping that "local landmarks" includes the nearest highway - which is what my mind envisions a lot of lost vacationers would want to know, and would be more likely to ask a gas pump than a human being.

Which brings me to the question: Is this un-manly?

After all, we've all grown up with the supposedly-antiquated notion that "real men don't pull over and ask for directions" - admitting that you are lost is like admitting defeat in the great game of Manliness. So does this count? Is the fact that you're not pulling over specifically for directions (since you're probably in need of gas anyway with your low-mileage manly vehicle), and it's not like you're ASKING for directions. That implies an element of speech, and very loosely implies you're expecting a verbal response which would mean you're asking a human. Will the Man Code be violated if, while filling up the Manmobile, you test out some new technology by verifying the correct route to your hotel (which you of course already know, but you want to see if the GAS PUMP knows as well) and maybe printing out the results as proof that you were indeed right about the route that needs to be taken and you weren't lost after all?

Let me know what you think about the manliness of pump-based mapping and whether or not it breaks the Man Code about pulling over to ask for directions.

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(The article about the 3,500 advanced gas pumps coming out next month)

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