All About Car Navigation Systems

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Introduction
The days are gone when wives made their husbands stop at the gas station to get directions. Today, there are no more giant maps taking up space in the front seat. Thanks to modern technology, we don't have to rely on directions like "turn left after the red barn, then drive for about 2 minutes until you see the stop sign, there's going to be a fork in the road but go straight, you should see the house at the end of the road, it's painted green and has white shutters. Make sure it has white shutters though, if it has red shutters you turned the wrong way." Today, we have car navigation systems.

History
The history of the car navigation system seems to be a bit skewed. According to some, the first commercially available car navigation system began with Etak, a company that made a digital program that used map matching. This in turn improved on dead-reckoning instruments which made car navigation system practical. Alpine is another company credited with contributing to the implementation of car navigation systems. This company claims to have created a system with Honda in 1981 called the Electro Gyrocator. They abandoned this idea in 1985, stating it was not practical. Honda states that they created a system in 1983 with consumers opting for it in the 1990 Acura Legend. However, Honda does concede that Etak made the car navigation system practical and user-friendly. In 1990, Mitsubishi Electric and Pioneer both claim to have come out with the first modern-day car navigation system. Also in 1990, a patent was filed with Digital Equipment Co. for an instrument called PageLink that used real-time maps while in the car. Another company claiming to be the first was Magellan, which claims to have created the very first GPS system used in vehicles in 1995.

Features
Basic features that most car navigation system comes with are top view of the map, top view of the map which rotates like a car, a bird's-eye view of the map or the next curve, linear gauge for distance, numbers for distance, schematic pictograms and voice prompts. Other models come with real-time information such as up-to-the-minute data about free and full parking lots, the nearest public transport lines and prices, real-time traffic jams and real-time weather forecasts. If you choose a car navigation system with all the bells and whistles, some of the features you may receive are LCD screens that can be used to display television programs or DVD movies. They may include programs that can communicate with cell phones for hands-free talking using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and they may even include personal management programs to conduct meetings while you're on the road.

Benefits
There are tons of benefits for having a car navigation system. The main benefit is that you will almost never get lost. Car navigation systems even come in golf carts which are customized for each golf course, giving you interactive maps regarding the course and real-time reading of the distance to the green. Some car navigation systems will not only give you basic directions but also points of interest along your route. You can even order take-out food with some systems! Of course, aside from all the wonderful things car navigation systems can offer you, the one worth the cost is the vehicle tracking system that comes equipped on most car navigation systems. This feature alone pays for itself if you're ever faced with a theft of your car because the police or authorities can find your car quickly and hopefully retrieve it.

Types
Most GPS or car navigation systems are portable, mounted on the dashboard of the car and powered by your cigarette lighter. However, there are two other types of car navigation systems available. One is the original factory system that you can choose to have installed when purchasing your car. The other is the aftermarket GPS system that you can purchase and have permanently installed into your vehicle. If you decide on purchasing a portable GPS device, most come in a kit that includes a mini USB cable, an AC adapter, car charger, a car mount kit, external antenna, stylus, a battery and document pack, a SD card with maps and companion CD-ROM's and navigation software.

Size
The majority of GPS or car navigation systems can fit into the palm of your hands. For easy accessibility, they are smaller so you can take them with you where ever you go. If you opt for the permanent car navigation system, most are about the size of a CD player or radio size. Many newer phones also come with GPS already installed, making these navigation devices even easier to take around with you!

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