Where to next? The future of GPS.

As navigation hardware and software improves, there’s a lot to look forward to

The latest GPS chips promise a future of instant-lock GPS systems that can tell you where you are almost instantly. They’re no longer only justifiable for high-end vehicles, as value for money in devices continues to improve. Barriers such as slower processor speed and memory are quickly becoming issues of the past. Some devices are now able to handle quite complex 2D and 3D content, including full 3D city models.

Within the next 12 months we’ll see navigation devices with wireless, internet and Wi-Fi connectivity, and content subscription plans very similar to mobile phones. Map updates will be delivered over the internet, and with much more frequency than right now. Eventually your maps will just be updated dynamically, and wirelessly. GPS devices will also start to take on more features that are similar to your mobile phone. Watch out for devices from TomTom (Go 940) and Garmin (Nuviphone) in this area as they launch in Australia soon.

You will also start to see dynamic traffic flow data, dynamic fuel prices and weather conditions on your GPS device, along with access to the internet from your car. The internet will be great for sharing your favourite destinations with friends and adding extra functionality to your device. TomTom already has its MapShare capability in the market, allowing users to overlay custom content to maps. Some European companies already use speed camera data provided by consumers through their phones!

The future also holds ‘Real Time Two Way’ (RTTW) devices. These will allow users to both provide and receive content dynamically. Currently you can receive traffic incident data as accidents occur. Next stop is ‘predictive’ traffic flows and real-time speed camera locations based on data provided by the vehicle users themselves.

You will also find more and more uses for your portable navigation units – outside the car! Some device manufacturers are making units easier to detach from the car so you can take it with you on foot. Future content may include pedestrian navigation features and turn-by-turn walking directions, and may also include public transport and public transport timetables in routing instructions.

GPS tourism is taking off in many countries, with full travel guides available for many places of interest, letting your GPS guide you along the way, and it’s a market that can only grow with time. An interesting example of this is in Germany where computer-maker Asus has partnered with software providers to provide a walking tour of the Berlin wall, complete with audio and video files and a commentary on its dramatic cold war history.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are currently in the evolutionary planning stages. ADAS gives the ability for GPS devices to offer not only route guidance, but also cruise control, advice on when to change lanes (or warnings if you’re doing so without realising it), collision warning systems to prevent accidents and even the potential ability to detect if your driving patterns indicate that you’re falling asleep. ADAS will first hit the market in the larger, luxury in-dash GPS devices found in many premium vehicles, with some elements of the technology likely to become available in portable devices.

Uniden TRAX 430 GPS device

Three dimensional map presentations are just one of the advances to be found in next-generation GPS devices.

Power your GPS properly

Most portable GPS devices use the in-car cigarette lighter to charge up, which is great, until you have to charge your phone, or if the kids want to use a portable DVD player in the back seat. The solution doesn’t have to involve frantically swapping cables, though, as a simple cigarette lighter double adaptor can be bought for less than twenty bucks from most auto parts retailers.

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