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Is it me or is GPS technology moving backwards?


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Greetings,

 

I have been interestedin GPS devices for a few years now. Way back when I picked up one of the RadioShack devices to attach to my Palm PDA for under $100. This device actually worked reasonable well and coupled with Delorme maps on the Palm did a decent job. Eventually I moved off the Palm and have been looking at both handheld and automotive devices.

 

I finally broke down this year and bought a Garmin Nuvi 650 and a Magellan Crossover. I returned the Garmin because it did not have all the features I wanted although it did a great job og routing me from point a to point b. I am currently using the Crossover but am thinking of returning it for one of Magellan's automotive only units (4250).

 

What I have noticed in my first forray into actually owning a GPS is that while certain things seem to be improving (SIRF III chipsets, new maps, etc) others do not. Both the Garmin and Magellan produce "good" routes most of the time but neither of them produce "great" routes. In both cases they tend to keep you on major roads even when taking a "back road" would be faster and more appropriate. The algorithms seem to be pretty basic, IMHO. They seem to only look at distance and speed limit when calculating best routes. In some cases this has resulted in "zig-zag" routes through city neighborhoods when staying on a main thoroughfare would have made more sense (and would have been faster). I even had a situation recently where the GPS said it could not calculate a route even though the destination I was looking for was no more than 3 miles away in downtown Seattle!

 

Furthermore, looking at this group and other GPS related discussion boards tells me that the new products like the Tritons and the Colorados have even more problems! What's up with this? Has the GPS market gotten to the point that the commodity pricing of these units is forcing manufacturers to cut too many corners? We've all heard the Magellan support horror stories. We've also seen Garmin putting out products that are simply not ready for prime time.

 

You would think that the technology for GPS devices would be maturing and that the software to drive them would be getting more sophisticated. Even the quality and accuracy of the maps is not getting that much better. The Crossover is a perfect example of that. Even though I did a firmware update the maps on the Crossover are approximately 3-4 years behind even though Magellan has newer maps on devices like the 4250.

 

You know if Television technology followed this same path we'd still have rabbit ear antennae and tuning knobs that you have to turn by hand. (For you young guys out there this is how TVs used to be back in the 60s).

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I think they are moving from a hardware application to software applications and having some misteps in the process. Plus the market is a bit confused on the way to go. So you have hardware companies trying to figure out the next great leap forward and fumbling around in the process.

 

There are some good ideas out there that just fall a bit short on what needs to happen to be the next GPS home run. In the meantime my GPS V keeps on chugging along.

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***For you young guys out there this is how TVs used to be back in the 60s***

 

For you even younger ones...you used a "Cat Whisker" on a "Galena Crystal and moved it around to hear radio signals.

I remember "tuning the slugs"and swappin' tubes, Setchel Carlson TVs, helping my dad build a 'Heath-kit'.

We didn't even have a TV 'til '64, two years after the worlds fair and the Space Needle. Curtis-Mathis

being one of the last TVs built in the good ol' USA . . . d mn I'm feelin' old!

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***For you young guys out there this is how TVs used to be back in the 60s***

 

For you even younger ones...you used a "Cat Whisker" on a "Galena Crystal and moved it around to hear radio signals.

 

Don't get started or soon we'll be talking about "Party Line" and hand crank telephones...LOL

2 empty cans and a piece of string..... ahh .... memories :D

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Both the Garmin and Magellan produce "good" routes most of the time but neither of them produce "great" routes. In both cases they tend to keep you on major roads even when taking a "back road" would be faster and more appropriate. The algorithms seem to be pretty basic, IMHO. They seem to only look at distance and speed limit when calculating best routes. In some cases this has resulted in "zig-zag" routes through city neighborhoods when staying on a main thoroughfare would have made more sense (and would have been faster).

 

Have you seen Dash? It should come out soon and will be expensive in the beginning, as most new technologies are. It is a two-way gps in that it talks with wireless internet to get live traffic. While live traffic has been available on some high end GPS's already, this has the additional feature of letting Big Brother Dash know how fast you are driving. If you are stuck in traffic, other Dash users will be directed to avoid the area and vise-versa. I guess some people will have privacy fears (they say the feedback feature is anonymous) but I don't. I usually have a choice of two to four ways of commuting from Rockland, NY to Queens. This would be extremely helpful to me. When you enter the destination you are headed for, it calculates three different routes and depending on how fast traffic is moving, it estimates time for each route.

 

As far as routing and detours go, some communities have been complaining that GPS units have been routing more cars through their neighborhoods. I wish I could cite the source of that tidbit but it was a few weeks ago that I read it. but I guess that could be a real problem if more people are speeding through a residential area because there is traffic on an adjacent highway. A problem to be handled by local enforcement, not GPSr manufacturers.

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Both the Garmin and Magellan produce "good" routes most of the time but neither of them produce "great" routes. In both cases they tend to keep you on major roads even when taking a "back road" would be faster and more appropriate. The algorithms seem to be pretty basic, IMHO. They seem to only look at distance and speed limit when calculating best routes. In some cases this has resulted in "zig-zag" routes through city neighborhoods when staying on a main thoroughfare would have made more sense (and would have been faster).

 

Have you seen Dash? It should come out soon and will be expensive in the beginning, as most new technologies are. It is a two-way gps in that it talks with wireless internet to get live traffic. While live traffic has been available on some high end GPS's already, this has the additional feature of letting Big Brother Dash know how fast you are driving. If you are stuck in traffic, other Dash users will be directed to avoid the area and vise-versa. I guess some people will have privacy fears (they say the feedback feature is anonymous) but I don't. I usually have a choice of two to four ways of commuting from Rockland, NY to Queens. This would be extremely helpful to me. When you enter the destination you are headed for, it calculates three different routes and depending on how fast traffic is moving, it estimates time for each route.

 

As far as routing and detours go, some communities have been complaining that GPS units have been routing more cars through their neighborhoods. I wish I could cite the source of that tidbit but it was a few weeks ago that I read it. but I guess that could be a real problem if more people are speeding through a residential area because there is traffic on an adjacent highway. A problem to be handled by local enforcement, not GPSr manufacturers.

To me knowing about traffic isn't worth 11 bucks every month. We all learn traffic patterns and adapt. Also sudden changes in traffic aren't typically picked up by these devices. I think the fastest they update is once every six minutes. The funny part is that if everyone had this service we'd all be exiting the same exit at the same time to avoid some traffic! :D
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Both the Garmin and Magellan produce "good" routes most of the time but neither of them produce "great" routes. In both cases they tend to keep you on major roads even when taking a "back road" would be faster and more appropriate. The algorithms seem to be pretty basic, IMHO. They seem to only look at distance and speed limit when calculating best routes. In some cases this has resulted in "zig-zag" routes through city neighborhoods when staying on a main thoroughfare would have made more sense (and would have been faster).

 

Have you seen Dash? It should come out soon and will be expensive in the beginning, as most new technologies are. It is a two-way gps in that it talks with wireless internet to get live traffic. While live traffic has been available on some high end GPS's already, this has the additional feature of letting Big Brother Dash know how fast you are driving. If you are stuck in traffic, other Dash users will be directed to avoid the area and vise-versa. I guess some people will have privacy fears (they say the feedback feature is anonymous) but I don't. I usually have a choice of two to four ways of commuting from Rockland, NY to Queens. This would be extremely helpful to me. When you enter the destination you are headed for, it calculates three different routes and depending on how fast traffic is moving, it estimates time for each route.

 

As far as routing and detours go, some communities have been complaining that GPS units have been routing more cars through their neighborhoods. I wish I could cite the source of that tidbit but it was a few weeks ago that I read it. but I guess that could be a real problem if more people are speeding through a residential area because there is traffic on an adjacent highway. A problem to be handled by local enforcement, not GPSr manufacturers.

 

I have seen Dash and it's a great application for mobile wireless data. My question is can Dash produce a quality alternative route? Most of what you would think are mature routing algorithms from Garmin and Magellan just don't seem sophisticated to me. For example. Leaving my house there are (at least) 2 ways to get over to a major E/W road. Both Garmin and Magellan both route me to the first right turn that takes me to that road. There is a second right turn about 1/4 mile away that also takes me directly to that road. There is no speed or distance advantage to taking either road but if you make the first right turn the intersection with the E/W road does not have a traffic signal making it very hard at busy times to make a left turn onto that road. If you take the second right turn the intersection does have a traffic light which is triggered by cars trying to access the E/W road. If nothing else it might be nice to have the GPS "learn" my preferences over time and stop recommending routes that I never take.

 

There are lots of other examples but waht concerns me most is that the quality of new products seems to be declining not improving. Most of the discussion groups tend to be somewhat pro-Garmin and there is certainly lots of bashing of the problems with the Magellan Triton. Enter the Colorado and suddenly we have a nearly identical situation in that neither of those products should have been brought to market yet. The Triton seems to have been pulled, at least temporarily and now appears to be coming back. Everyone seems to be hanging on to the hopes of new firmware releases for the Colorado which I am sure will fix some if not all of the issues. Is there no way for these companies to do more functionality testing before releasing them to the public?

 

Anyway let's hope all of these manufacturers can get it together and put some quality products out.

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