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The A to B of SatNav Systems

Updated on June 5, 2014

Before there was SatNav

People have been getting lost for centuries. Sometimes it is a good thing; like finding America, and sometimes it is a bad thing; like finding America. Either opinion probably depends on whether you are a Native American or a European.

There have been many ways to stop people getting lost and to help them find how to get to where they wanted to go. Directions explained with much hand gesturing by a local resident which consisted of pointing and then trying to remembering how many lefts to take before you take a right. Signposts which worked well unless there was one blown over by a storm or a happy local decided it would be amusing to turn the sign in another direction. Finally there was the good old roadmap book which always had your destination in the crease between pages.

Reliabilty and Accuracy

Today SatNav systems are widely used and have improved enormously since they were first tested by the US military in the 1960s. But always remember that they are not infallible and are only there to assist. You still have to use your common sense and do not follow their directions without question especially if you suspect the route you are being directed to take is dangerous, unsuitable for your vehicle, or obviously incorrect. Treat it as your co-pilot, there to offer guidance while you make the final decisions.

SatNavs use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) satellite technology and currently have an accuracy of between 5 to 10 metres. Though you have to be aware that these signals may be distorted especially by tall buildings or other large obstructions, or bad reception.

Remember that most SatNavs cannnot take into account realtime problems such as traffic jams or roadworks. So you should consider obtaining information from other sources before setting out on any journey.

Also consider that most SatNavs are marketed for the car driver and these will not take into account the specific type of vehicle being driven. Select a SatNav that is suitable for the vehicle you are driving, such as a large truck or delivery van.

Finally to get the best and most accurate information on your intended route ensure that you have a system that is updated at regular intervals.

Using a SatNav

Most SatNav systems today are straightforward to set up, have good easy to read screens and give clear audio instructions. If you have purchased a SatNav for the first time carefully read the "quick start" guide.

The next thing you want to do is find the ideal position in your vehicle. You must be able to read and absorb the information on the screen at a glance so you can quickly return to concentrating on the road. It must be placed where it does not obscure any of your vehicles instruments or your view of the road. It is also important that the SatNav cable can reach the powerpoint without getting entangled or affecting your ability to reach any controls.

As mentioned earlier SatNav systems use a GPS satellite system to work out their position on the Earth. Once your current position is calculated and you input your destination the system works out the best route to that destination using a number of criteria; such as road speed limits. It is obviously important that you ensure that you enter the correct details of your intended destination.

You may be given a number of route options, such as; quickest or shortest route, or one which avoids toll roads. In some cases your planned destination may not show up because your system has not been updated or the address is a new build. In such circumstances enter an older nearby address instead.

It's that simple !!!

Hints and Tips

> As they are usually very reliable the majority of people who use SatNav do not have a road atlas. You should consider keeping one as a back-up should anything go wrong with the system.

> Whatever estimated journey time and mileage the SatNav provides always remember to add in any time for a refreshment break or fuel stop.

> Always give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and acquaint yourself with your route before starting out. There could be unexpected delays due to such things as diversions, roadworks or traffic jams.

> You should never try to alter your SatNav settings while on the move. Instead stop in a safe place before making any changes.

> To reduce distraction, loss of concentration and stress it is recommended that you pick a system that has a wide screen, simple operational features, and timely visual and audio prompts.

> To reduce the chancing of your vehicle being a target for thieves always take a portable SatNav with you if leaving your car (rather than putting it in the glove compartment) and wipe away the suction pad marks on the windscreen or dashboard.

> If it is a fitted SatNav system avoid leaving a record of your home address in the system as thieves could use this to go to your house as they already know you are not at home.

> As there are many SatNav models available, before you buy one try it out if you can, or read the many online reviews.


@ 2014 Brian McKechnie (aka WorldEarth)

To relax you after a long drive


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