|James Hall - self confessed
gadget man - tells us about his latest acquisition:
As a bit of a toy freak, I've always fancied the idea of in car SatNav. I've owned a handheld GPS for several years (originally bought for sailing). I've connected it up to various route finding programs on my Psion organisers to fairly good effect. The main problems that I've always found have been:
Then one day I discovered the Alpine combined SatNav/ICE system and I was hooked. A quick enquiry at my local TVR dealer (Fernhurst Motor Co. in West Sussex) where they told me that as I kept on giving them so much money, they'd do it at cost. I couldn't really say no (even if I'd wanted to).
The car went in for it's 12,000 mile service, and while it was there, they fitted it. Having previously done an installations into a Mercedes SLK, the installer confidently said it would take him a day. There's obviously more room to hide all of the boxes in an SLK, because it took him nearly three days to hide the ten boxes and one hundred feet of cable that makes up the system!
The SatNav system uses a combination of GPS, inertial guidance and road matching (it assumes you're on a road and matches up the twists that the car is making with the roads in the vicinity). Overall, when the system is calibrated correctly you get an accuracy of about 1 yard. You dial in the destination using a joystick on one of the remote controls supplied. It's pretty quick, as it eliminates any letters that can't be in the place name that you're entering and then presents you with a list of possibilities usually after about 4 characters have been entered.
There is the option to search by address (right down to house number) or category (if you want a list of all of the hotels in Reading, it'll even give you their phone numbers). You can select Motorways or ordinary roads (as well as deciding whether you want a fast, short, or main road route). As you travel towards your destination it will automatically reroute if you miss a turn or just decide that you like the road that you're on. You get voice commands in plenty of time - "left turn in 3/4 mile", "left turn in 1/2 mile", "left turn in 1/4 mile", "left turn now". It has a very soothing female voice (which never shouts, complains or says "no, other left" just as you're turning).
There is also the option of playing the CD or radio and having the voice interrupt the music when it needs to tell you something. This can be in conjunction with switching to the map display, or the map can be on constantly with the voice cutting in on the music. The map can be zoomed in to 1/16 of a mile to the centimetre. That means that you can see what is coming up ahead (it was very useful in the French Alps earlier this year, because I could see exactly what the road ahead was going to be like). Each country is covered by a single CD (which fits into a separate CD changed in the boot). I've only got a single CD system, but if you live in mainland Europe and travel between countries a lot I can see where it might be useful to have the optional multi CD system (I'm quite happy to swap CDs as I sit on the Channel Tunnel).
CD changer - I have a 6 changer, because that's all that will fit in the space available, but you can get a 12 if you prefer. It's a fairly standard Alpine unit. You have the facilities to name CDs, play them randomly on a per CD or multi CD basis. All the usual stuff (but the animation on the screen is pretty cool when you change CDs).
TV - yes, I've got a telly in my car. OK, you can't use it while you're driving. There's a switch that disables the picture unless the handbrake is on (except the installer didn't connect it up on mine, so I could use it, but it's illegal). The picture is pretty good (subject to where you're parked). You get all of the channels available wherever you are in the World (you can select the country that you're in and it will set up the correct picture and sound standards for that country).
Tuner with all the usual toys - RDS, Traffic Info, Auto Tuning etc. Again the animation is pretty good. Loads of toy value.
The whole system will cost about £2-3000 installed (depending on the spec that you go for). Map CDs (you get the UK with it) cost £100 each.