Microsoft Patents GPS Feature Dubbed "Avoid The Ghetto", Would You Use It?
have often remarked that GPSs should have features that let you avoid
certain neighborhoods. What sounded like a sort of racist and
half-hearted joke about the trappings of technology is now becoming a
From ABC News:
Microsoft has patented a GPS feature that helps users avoid
dangerous places. It’s been dubbed “Avoid the Ghetto”. The feature
develops a route that takes into account unsafe neighborhoods, bad
weather and dangerous terrain. It has been created especially for mobile
phones with GPS technology, but there are fears that “Avoid the Ghetto”
could penalize poor neighborhoods.
“People really don’t want to get shot or car jacked. It really
has nothing to do with dissing poor people. It has to do with staying
alive and you know a lot of what’s going on with cars these days has an
awful lot to do with staying alive. It’s certainly what makes a lot of
this technology work and what allows people to justify paying for it,”
said Rob Enderle from the Enderle Group.
Putting my safety first is paramount, especially as a woman who often
travels alone and drives a ten-year-old car while doing it. I’m also
new to my city so I live and die by my GPS gadget, but when my GPS sends
me through a bad neighborhood I never make the connection. I’m more
sensitive to the fact that it sometimes routes me through spooky
desolate areas or underneath freeway overpasses where the real scary
stuff takes place. If I find myself in what looks like a “bad”
neighborhood, I don’t think about getting car jacked (people still do
that?), I just keep it moving. Should I be profiling neighborhoods
harder? Am I risking my safety by not doing so?
There’s something discomforting about a system that labels certain
neighborhoods as “unsafe” while the other features of the system merely
account for dangerous terrain (what are we, driving up the sides of
mountains here?) and weather (because there’s a rain cloud hovering over
a single street?). The whole thing vaguely stinks of discrimination,
but there’s a part of me that would be curious about the possible safety
benefits because frankly I’m trying to protect my neck…
What do you think?