Friday, October 19, 2012

Automobile nav systems

This is another one of my random rants, triggered by this article on the proposed NHTSA guidelines on distracted driving.

I have decided that the nav systems in cars have little to do with navigation and everything to do with padding margins for automakers.

To sum up, the built-in nav systems are expensive and crappy. The "non-deletable option" costs upwards of $2,000 while providing less functionality than a $100 Garmin Nuvi.

I am particularly annoyed by the system in my Lexus, which does not allow input while the vehicle is moving. The lawyers clearly got to the engineers before the customers did. Ever heard of a passenger? Sure, it handles voice input, but not from my voice or anyone else who has ever tried it. Maybe you have to speak in Japanese.

To add to the insult, Lexus recently offered to sell me an updated map data DVD for $150. Gee, thanks guys, or maybe I will just buy 2 Garmins that work better anyway.

Some of the latest systems seem to at least have better interfaces.

I generally use Waze instead of the built in system in my truck. In addition to navigation, Waze shows me traffic and hazards along the way using crowdsourced data. If I need to go to a hotel, I can just put in the hotel name and search instead of having to know the address. If the car is moving, it will tell me to have a passenger do the input, which is sensible, and a better option than just crippling the system.

Of course, Waze has a minor problem--the navigation sucks, but that is definitely improving. Android users can use Google Maps for turn by turn directions. iOS users can use Apple Maps, but who knows where you will end up.

The ideal solution would seem to be to just have a relatively future-proof interface in the car for the owner to connect to their tablet or smartphone. I just got a decked out new iPad for less than half of what the in-car nav options cost. Ford and others are moving in this direction, but they seem loathe to give up the fat margins of yesterday's technology.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment! Anonymous is okay, but it is easier for me to respond if you at least make up a name.