The Road Ahead : December January 2009
features Satellite navigation systems in cars are becoming more popular. leader FOLLOW THE “Ask about the cost, Ask about the cost Driving South on Maple Dr method and frequency of map upgrades. Remember, a GPS is only as effective as the currency of its maps.” Mr McAulay said that GPS systems were good, but people should bear in mind that the shortest route on a GPS is not always the most convenient or the quickest. “It needs to be used in conjunction with commonsense,” he said. The managing director of Brisbane-based Hema Maps, Robert Boegheim, agreed that mapping was a “real issue” for GPS makers and buyers alike. “Australia is a challenge to provide complete coverage for – just like mobile phones,” Mr STORY BARRY GREEN F or an increasing number of people, in-car satellite navigation is a ‘must have’. Satellite navigation is often referred to as GPS, or Global Positioning System, a technology developed by the US military but now widely used to provide location data to tracking systems. In its in-car methodology, GPS guides motorists with an electronic road map and verbal directions to where they want to go. It can be a handy tool for fi nding your way around. Though GPS might seem like yet another technological boon, up there with the ubiquitous mobile phone and laptop computer, not all buyers are happy with its performance. One of the most common gripes is that the GPS doesn’t always advise the most convenient route for the time of day or traffic conditions. Other complaints from users have included a lack of back-up service with some systems, unavailability of maps, the system overheating if left in a car and complicated instructions (up to 80 pages). RACQ technical advisory service manager Peter McAulay recommends anyone thinking of buying a GPS should, fi rst of all, consider how often they needed to refer to a street directory or map when driving. “Other considerations should also include portability of the item and ease of mounting and installation,” Mr McAulay said. Boegheim said. “One or two makers provide free map upgrades for (the) life (of the GPS), whereas it seems to be (some of) the cheaper items that are costlier to upgrade.” NAVIGATION POINTERS An in-car GPS consists of: • A receiver that picks up satellite signals and then determines the user’s precise position. • A speaker that relays automated instructions. Most GPS units mount onto the windscreen with a suction cap. They plug into the auxiliary power outlet (cigarette lighter), but can also work for a limited time off a battery. Once a destination is entered, the system uses the map data to plot a route. It then calculates the travel distance and likely time of arrival. • A map database. • A processor to work out routes, distances and times. • A screen to display the map and route instructions. The route is displayed and the user can choose between the fastest or shortest (geographically) routes. The GPS then tracks the user’s position using satellite signals to guide them via on-screen and verbal instructions. RACQ GPS OFFER See p27 for RACQ’s new GPS member offer. DEC 08/JAN 09 13 Photo by Daniel Padavona, Shutterstock.com.
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