For a short time between the heavy use of road atlases and the surge of GPS, the norm was printing directions from Mapquest, Yahoo, and Google Maps. This is, as a matter of fact, the way I found my way to Texas 11 years ago.
There were always caveats, as with all computerized route calculation, that you wouldn’t have up to date information and would end up in a construction zone in a city you had never heard of.
The other problem was deviation. If you made a wrong turn, deviation still meant a manual recovery process. GPS navigation has drastically reduced the use of such products in my life, but I still use them when my GPS is mounted in my car for planning purposes and it does help quite a bit.
GPS is wonderfully helpful. It can overcome route deviation, provide detours when necessary, and even help you find a service station, medical facility, or municipal office in an emergency. More often than not, you are overlooking data that is only as good as the last update, however. Some hotels change hands very quickly on the highway.
But now, a somewhat hybrid model has emerged with the advent of cellular data networks: location based services. When you couple a pinpoint accuracy of your current location with an online database of waypoints that can be constantly revised, you end up with the best of both worlds. Services such as Google Local now provide a way of receiving up-to-the-minute services on your mobile.
This kind of technology can only improve, as it has over the past 11 years. The more information that is at your fingertips while (ahem) parked next to the highway, the better off we all are.