Getting From Here to There

Dec 3, 2009

Global positioning system devices, or GPS, are becoming more popular as travelers, on foot and, especially, in vehicles discover the wayfinding devices, with their street-by-street directions, aid them in pinpointing where they are and where they want to be.

Small, full-color monitors display in 2-D and 3-D, many with voice activation, and provide drivers with accurate visual, often audible, wayfinding cues.

Even more, there are those units that give real-time driving conditions that can alert drivers to such occurrences as road closures, accidents and high-congestion areas.

It’s estimated that using GPS can save hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of hours and lower pollution worldwide because of road congestion.

What actually is GPS? Briefly, it’s a “U.S. space-based radionavigation system,” notes the National-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Coordination Office. The U.S. Air Force “develops, maintains, and operates the space and control segments.” It’s made up of three sections: “satellites orbiting the Earth; control and monitoring stations on Earth; and the GPS receivers owned by users. GPS satellites broadcast signals from space that are picked up and identified by GPS receivers. Each GPS receiver then provides three-dimensional location (latitude, longitude and altitude) plus the time.”

GPS is free, but to access it receivers are needed; portable handheld or in-vehicle receivers often are purchased from retailers. The receivers, preloaded with roadmaps, say, of North America, offer a variety of options in a range of prices. Some handheld devices can be affixed to a windshield or atop a dash and plugged into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter adapter. Others, generally with much larger screen monitors, require professional in-dash installation.

We asked manufacturers about today’s in-dash GPS units and the opportunity for restylers to cash in on the installations, especially as vehicle manufacturers may opt to offer fewer upscale items in standard new vehicles in order to sell their vehicles at lower prices.

Explain how vehicle GPS units can help today’s drivers (maps, directions, real-time road reports, etc.).
It allows the driver to keep his/her concentration on the road without having to flip through pages of paper maps while trying to find where they are on the road and manually finding a route to their destination. Real-time traffic information saves the driver time and gas by pre-planning an alternate route to avoid a scene of an accident or construction sites. -” Mako Saito, Fujitsu Ten Eclipse, Torrance, Calif.

With the GPS units installed, drivers can be guided to the preset destination in the shortest route and save gasoline/time in searching for the appropriate route they are not familiar with. In additional, with the newly added “Detour” feature, drivers can detour from any specific road and re-rout themselves again. -” Ray Yeung, Motevo Mobile Media Inc., City of Industry, Calif.

GPS units provide drivers with peace of mind while driving to their destination. The features in a GPS unit, such as 3-D maps, turn-by-turn voice-guided driving directions and pre-loaded Points of Interest (POIs), all work together to provide a more confident driving experience. -” Steve Brown, Alpine Electronics, Torrance, Calif.

What features are most helpful for drivers to have? Why?
Turn-by-turn voice guidance, point-of-interest search and real-time traffic information would most likely be the most helpful features for a driver. Most in-dash navigation units, if not all, will include the turn-by-turn voice guidance feature, so it shouldn’t cost the consumer extra money. The street name voice announcement feature will be included depending on the brand. The only feature that will require an additional cost to the consumer would be the real-time traffic feature. Most in-dash units will require a traffic tuner with a Sirius traffic, XM traffic or MSN Direct subscription. -” Mako Saito, Fujitsu Ten Eclipse

The GPS can offer voice guidance in different languages to the drivers; drivers could concentrate on driving while on the move. The unit includes Bluetooth connectivity: Once a Bluetooth-enabled phone is synchronized with the unit, the driver can go hands-free to make and answer calls even if the mobile is in a bag or jacket pocket. Drivers and passengers can also enjoy listening to radio programs and music from the connected iPhone while the GPS is operating. When in a traffic jam, people can enjoy watching a movie or music video when you stop (when driving the video display will be disabled automatically). -” Ray Yeung, Motevo Mobile Media

Easy-to-read graphics, turn-by-turn voice guided instructions and street name announcements are helpful features for drivers, since they all help to reduce the chance of making an incorrect driving maneuver. These features are all included in our PND-K3. As well, traffic conditions, which are valuable to drivers in high-congestion areas, are available on the PND-K3msn, through its MSN Direct subscription. -” Steve Brown, Alpine Electronics

What do such services as OnStar provide that might be different from most automobile GPS units? Will those kinds of services just continue to grow in consumer use?

Although OnStar does provide extra features compared to GPS navigation units -” such as Advanced Automatic Crash Response and vehicle diagnostics -” there will always be a majority of users who are satisfied with only navigation without having to pay a subscription fee, which OnStar requires for you to use their services. Most navigation devices already offer a menu to give users their current location with options to navigate to the nearest hospital or police station in case of an emergency. In-dash navigation sales have grown, since it has become more affordable than they were years ago; at the right price range, I can see that OnStar will have a growing number of users over time. -”  Mako Saito, Fujitsu Ten Eclipse

OnStar is a factory-installed feature and is not installed by dealer or installer. It is only available in GM cars currently. OnStar is a security system rather than a navigation and in-vehicle multimedia entertainment system. -”  Ray Yeung, Motevo Mobile Media

The PND-K3msn uses data from MSN Direct to offer information such as traffic, weather, movie times, gas prices, stock results, news alerts and local event information. A free three-month trial subscription comes with the PND-K3msn; users then can choose to subscribe to the service when it expires. -” Steve Brown, Alpine Electronic

About mounting/assembling: With regard to in-dash setups are there any specific considerations an installer needs to take note of, or are these fairly straightforward, especially for those who have done audio/video/DVD installs?

Anyone who has experience installing an audio/video unit in a vehicle will have no problem installing a navigation unit. Older models may use a speed sensor wire, which allows a GPS unit to track you in areas with no GPS reception by using the rotation speed of your wheel. The location of these sensors varies by vehicle make, and quite a few installers found it hard to locate. Luckily, with navigation reception being a lot better these days, most navigation units do no require this connection at all. -”  Mako Saito, Fujitsu Ten Eclipse

There are more and more factory OE-replacement units coming out. The installation is pretty easy because the harness included is just something like plug-and-play, matching with the factory original harness; and in most models, the factory-like plug of the steering wheel control connection is provided. -” Ray Yeung, Motevo Mobile Media

In-dash-based navigation systems should be installed by a professional installer, preferably someone who is an authorized retailer for the hardware manufacturer. For these navigation systems, steps such as placement of the satellite antenna and connection to the vehicle’s speed pulse wire are key to the correct performance of the unit. -”  Steve Brown, Alpine Electronics

Units generally come preloaded with U.S. and Canada maps and places of interest. How often are these updated and when and how should consumers get these new updates? Is there a cost involved?

Generally, map updates on a DVD map are updated every year and require a purchase of a new DVD. Navigation these days is shifting to an SD-card-based navigation, which allows for quicker and convenient map updates with less cost involved. Usually, updates are accessed through a company’s map updating website. -” Mako Saito, Fujitsu Ten Eclipse

There are two kinds of updates. The first one is the software update, which is free of charge from the website of the navigation solution provider (like Infogation) whenever there is a new enhancement on the software. Second, will be the map data update, which is provided by the map data company (like Navteq) that may have a cost and is done on their website on a yearly basis, for example (price is subject to the map provider). -” Ray Yeung, Motevo Mobile Media

For Alpine, map updates are offered for sale, since not all consumers may want/need the latest update. There is no set timeframe for these updates. However, if there is a software operation update, these will be offered free of charge, as needed. -” Steve Brown, Alpine Electronics

How do you assist automotive restylers/retailers with education of the devices so they can best promote and sell to the consumers, as well as answer questions or handle complaints from users?

Our reps and sales managers constantly educate dealers, provide product information and selling tips seminars throughout the year to keep the information fresh in the retailer’s minds. We offer plenty of informative POP sources and product kiosks to give the retailer the confidence to communicate how strong our products are to consumers as well as how much our products offer profitability.-”  Mako Saito, Fujitsu Ten Eclipse

We make a lot of training kits: installation guides, application guides, service manuals, frequently asked questions and our in-house after-sales technical person, to provide instant information and answer any technical questions from the installers or inquiries from the end users. -” Ray Yeung, Motevo Mobile Media

On the education side, Alpine has created a presentation that our reps can show to their new expeditor accounts to teach them about this product. The reps will also work with the expeditors to address issues from consumers. On the promotion side, Alpine has a POP kit for use at car dealerships, which consists of a tabletop display, matching literature and an art CD kit that has templates for fliers and window decals.  -” Steve Brown, Alpine Electronics