GPS Navigation

Finding your destination used to mean keeping your eyes on the road while you glance at an oversized map draped over the steering wheel. Technology and the introduction of GPS Navigation to consumers have transformed how we find our way.

What is GPS Navigation?

In 1973, GPS or Global Positioning System was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense to be used for military purposes and in the 1980's was available for civilian use. The system is composed of satellites that orbit the earth and transmit signal information to stations on the ground (or "receivers"). The GPS receivers on Earth take that information and use triangulation to calculate the user's exact location.

GPS Navigational Units

GPS Navigational units are portable units that can either be mounted in your car or transferred from vehicle to vehicle. Once a destination is entered, it will then walk you through your trip, giving exact directions to your destination. Current GPS unit prices range from $250 to $600.

How to choose a GPS Navigational Unit

  • Handheld vs. dashtop – Keep in mind the primary use of the unit. Do you prefer a unit that will remain in your vehicle at all times and be primarily used when you are driving? Or do you think you might use a GPS for activities such as hiking or biking?
  • Convenience – Look for a unit with a good battery life, especially if you are using it outdoors for activities such as walking and hiking. A battery will enable you to charge your unit and preload your route before you enter the vehicle.
  • Speaking features – A speaking feature on your portable unit can be an important safety feature that will enable you to keep your eyes on the road and listen for directions rather than scanning the on-street map on your unit. The additional feature of speaking street names rather than giving directions such as, "turn left" can help you negotiate in unfamiliar areas especially in urban areas where streets can be close together.
  • Guidance Options and Internal database – Most units allow you to choose guidance options that include plotting the shortest, fastest and even toll-free route. An internal database will search and navigate you to points of interest such as gas stations, restaurants and ATMs.
  • Modern features – A full-feature model will upgrade older vehicles with features such as Bluetooth hands-free telephone capability, MP3 player and Ipod connection as well as FM transmitter.

Cell Phone Technology

Nearly all new cellular phones sold have some built-in GPS receiving capability. Those that do not can request the service from their cellular phone provider.

  • PS cell phones may need a clear line of sight with the sky in order to establish a location and may not work properly indoors.
  • Be sure your cellular phone stays charged. Because the phone is sending its location every two minutes, it is using more battery power than it typically does and will need to be charged more frequently.
  • GPS cell phones with view screens can often display turn-by-turn direction as well as announce them through the phone’s speaker. These services are available for a monthly fee and use databases of maps to provide directions.

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