If you travel frequently for business or pleasure, have difficulty reading maps, or prefer not to ask for directions, a global positioning system, or GPS, is something you may want to consider owning. In fact, a GPS navigation system for your vehicle is exactly what you need. Once a destination is programmed into the GPS device, the system plans a route, gives vocal turn-by-turn directions, and confirms your course as you drive.
Most GPS, also called personal navigation devices (PNDs) when used in personal vehicles, allow you to select routing preferences, the shortest or fastest routes, and roads without tolls. In addition, a few portable devices include specific routing instructions that help bicyclists avoid main roads or pedestrians choose the best “by foot” routes. Some devices even propose the best routes for fuel efficiency. As a bonus, GPS devices can quickly locate a number of points of interest (POI) including hotels, ATMs, gas stations, and more. Its search function also allows you to locate a particular point of interest or peruse nearby or distant locations for lodging, restaurants, movie theaters etc. Once you have decided where you want to go, the GPS system determines the best route and frequently offers contact information as well.
With this much-needed gadget, it’s important to know the seven must-have features of a good GPS system. Here is the list:
This feature utilizes text-to-speech technology that allows your GPS device to supply voice instructions. Minus this feature, you are required to read the navigational directions on the GPS display, which can be dangerous and confusing for the driver and passengers.
With this optional feature, you receive automatic traffic alerts, which can be helpful in avoiding traffic jams by providing alternate routes.
The Bluetooth feature in a GPS device permits communication with your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone so that you can make and receive calls directly to your GPS by voice command. For best performance, check that your cell phone carrier is well matched to your GPS unit.
The automatic rerouting feature gives your GPS the ability to provide alternate routing information if your first choice is not desirable. For example, if the road ahead includes a gridlock situation, the automatic recording feature kicks in to offer an alternate route.
With this feature, a GPS unit calculates locations more accurately within 1-2 miles. With satellites and ground stations, WAAS provides signal corrections, which gives you a better position accuracy.
A GPS unit should have a database of useful maps and points of interest. If your GPS device is preloaded when purchased, it will start working immediately. If it is not preloaded, you would have to go online and download the essentials into your GPS device.
SD and CF card slots permit insertion of flash memory cards into your GPS unit for adding data and gathering information from your GPS unit.
Other great GPS additions include anti-theft devices, MP3 players, and water protection coverings.
Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leading provider of GPS vehicle tracking equipment and software for small and midsized companies.