in-car GPS Navigation

My love affair/dependency with GPS navigation started way back when I used a bluetooth system that sent GPS data to my iPaq, which I connected to my car’s audio system so I can hear the directions.

Then I bought a new car that included GPS Navi. I had to pay for more than just the system because only Honda Accord models that had leather seats and sunroof would have it as an option. It also included XM Satellite radio. Although I initially didn’t want either, I have grown to love leather seating and XM, and want them in future cars. So things worked out in the end and I don’t regret the couple thousand extra I paid. I am listening to XM radio from my entertainment system as I write this entry, by the way.

There are the obvious uses for GPS navigation, like getting directions when going to a totally new place. However, I make it a habit to activate the system almost everywhere I go, including when I go to work and home. Although I know my path to work, I like to have the system ready if I encounter a detour and want to quickly reroute. The system is also great at showing me different routes that I either wouldn’t have known about or wouldn’t bother trying because it would be too much info and I’d end up getting lost. Since I have the system always ready, I can vary my route based on if the light at certain intersections are green or not, so I can turn right instead of wait for the green light to go straight, for example.

Another neat thing about the built-in system is that it takes voice commands. I can say “Find nearest gas station” or “Find nearest (Chinese) restaurant” and will give me a list of nearby points of interests. It will show the direction of the destination so I know if it is on my way or if I would have to backtrack.

One advantage that the iPaq system had was it could get addresses from my contact book. The Honda Navi system makes it pretty easy to enter in addresses or place names so I’ve not missed the contactbook feature much. A tip I learned from the manual is to enter in addresses by Street name, rather than City first. If I enter in the street name and address, the system will give a list of cities to choose from, so I don’t have to enter in the Street and City info. Oh, and so I don’t have to write down addresses to be entered, I send SMS messages to my mobile phone with the addresses, using a Google Firefox extension that makes it easy to send text messages to mobile phones.

Being a directionally-challenged female, the system gives me great peace of mind when I drive. Unlike older map methods I used, including a map book, map printouts, and GPS-enabled iPaq, I don’t have to pull over to figure out where I am and where I want to go. This is particularly important when I happen to be in unsafe places at night.

A year after I got my car with Navi, Acura started selling cars that had traffic info integrated with Navi. How cool would that be? It would be able to give a heads-up of traffic congestion so we could reroute before we get stuck in it. I am not adversed to getting off the freeway to take local roads if I can avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic. How does it get the information? Through XM Satellite radio: XM NavTraffic. Genius.

My future car will have not just traffic-aware GPS navigation, but also weather info. Someone pointed out that I should look outside to know the weather. :P Good point. But really, if we travel a certain distance, the weather can change greatly. For example, I drive 350 miles between Southern and Northern California. It would be nice to get a heads-up of weather conditions. I do check the weather forecast when planning trips but I don’t always have the luxury to drive on sunny days.

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