GPS myths and jargon busting

Myth 1 – GPS doesn’t work on cloudy days

GPS receivers work on the theory of “direct line of sight” to satellites. So although there will be occasional problems associated with heavy tree cover or skyscrapers in CBD areas causing occasional blocking of signals, heavy cloud cover should have minimal impact on the GPS unit’s performance.

Myth 2 – When I buy a GPS device, it won’t have maps that reflect physical reality

The maps on GPS devices will be a little bit out of date when they are purchased simply because it takes time to capture accurate map data, integrate it into a GPS device and then ship that device into store. There are over one million kilometres of road in Australia and it takes months for providers of map data to physically drive all of these roads and capture map data. The maker of a GPS device then has to convert this map data and ship its GPS devices onto retail shelves, a process that can also take several months. The good news is that almost all GPS device brands offer map updates after devices have been purchased.

Myth 3 – I have to buy a new GPS device whenever I want the latest maps

Not true. Most makers of GPS devices allow you to update your current GPS device with new mapping data via online downloads, SD cards or discs purchased from a retailer. Some manufacturers offer new map data once a year, with most brands now moving towards more frequent map conversions to ensure greater map currency.

Map providers work hard to ensure the currency of maps too, by placing a high priority on driving newly constructed roads and new major road developments such as Lane Cove Tunnel in NSW, Tugun Bypass on the Queensland border and East Link in Victoria.

Myth 4 – You can’t buy GPS devices preloaded with maps of both Australia and New Zealand

Yes you can, but it depends on the GPS device purchased. Some brands come pre-loaded with Australian and New Zealand maps ready to go, so you can use your GPS device when visiting New Zealand.

Myth 5 – People can use my GPS to track my movements

Some sophisticated GPS devices allow tracking of people, and generally these are business-purpose devices that are used for, say, logging the kilometres driven by employees. There are also “social networking” applications for mobile phones that allow people to share their location with friends. However, each of these examples generally requires the person to voluntarily “opt in” to the location service, so they will know that they are being tracked.

GPS jargon busting

Bluetooth: This is standard in mobile phones and quite common in GPS systems. A GPS device with Bluetooth can wirelessly connect with your Bluetooth phone and act as a hands-free speaker.

Fastest/shortest route: You can choose between the shortest route and the fastest route, which takes estimated average speeds and road types, such as highways and residential roads, into account when navigating.

GPS fix time: This refers to the time it takes for your GPS device to determine your location once it has been turned on.

In-car/portable: In-car GPS devices are built into the dash of your car; portable GPS devices can be removed and taken with you.

POI (Points of Interest): These are map locations determined by the map provider and GPS manufacturer that you can select as destinations or waypoints as you travel.

Safety alerts: Cover speed zones, school zones or the position of fixed speed and red light cameras, giving drivers an alert when over the speed limit or approaching a camera.

TMC (Traffic Message Channel): TMC broadcasts traffic alerts to your GPS device, enabling it to make re-routing decisions to avoid traffic incidents or road works.

TTS (Text to Speech): This allows the GPS device to read out street names, naming the streets you need to turn down rather than just saying “Turn right”.

3D mapping: Some GPS devices offer ‘3D’ maps, with models of significant places of interest, making for enjoyable navigation.

Back to Whereis Going Places microsite