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GPS and its Role in Automobiles

GPS is utilized for a wide variety of applications in our personal cars. The first and most obvious is navigation. The GPS system alone is not enough for the every day person to successfully navigate though. The only way a GPS system can guide you to your destination is if you have the coordinates for where you would like to travel. Even then point a and point b are usually not connected in a straight line. You must follow the road system to reach your destination. (Walczak 2003)

A GPS navigation system in a Volvo S40

To get around this the GPS system is usually used in conjunction with a computer in the vehicle. The computer has road maps stored in its system as well as GPS coordinates. The user simply tells the computer where he or she would like to go. The computer uses the GPS to determine the users current location and the coordinates of the destination. It then pulls up the appropriate maps and highlights the correct route. Several newer systems even give the user turn by turn audio directions to the destination.

GPS is also very useful in emergency situations. If your car is stolen, the GPS receiver that is mounted on your vehicle can be used to tell its location and aid law enforcement in its recovery. Several in car navigational services offer a system that detects airbag deployment and notifies emergency services of your location. This dramatically speeds up response times and gives the user a greater chance of surviving an accident. (Intro to GPS Apps 2003)

Several benefits offered by vehicle navigation devices rely in one way or another on GPS. Onstar, one of the leading providers of this service offer their customers several convenient options. GPS can be utilized to locate your vehicle and automatically lock or unlock it. On some models the system can be used to diagnose car problems such as a check engine light or strange noises. The program can even use GPS to locate your car and flash the lights or sound the horn if you forget where you parked. (Learn More: What is OnStar 2003)

Another growing use for GPS systems is for tracking vehicles. Car tracking devices are often used by parents to track young drivers, by companies to track delivery vehicle routes, and by sales people to record vehicle use for tax purposes. These small unobtrusive devices use GPS to periodically record vehicle location, speed, stops, routes, and times. Depending on the system, the data can be viewed in real-time on a PC, or downloaded from the device later.

When buying a auto GPS navigation system, look for ease of use, voice directions, updatable maps, and a bright screen. A touch screen helps if you have to interact with the unit when driving. Some all-in-one (AIO) portable GPS units such as the Garmin Nuvi 660, now offer travel-related features such as language translators, MP3 music players, audio book players, and more. If you are going to mount it in a vehicle, look for a unit that provides a mounting method that will work in your particular vehicle.
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vehicle tracking system is an electronic device installed in a vehicle to enable the owner or a third party to track the vehicle's location. Most modern vehicle tracking systems use Global Positioning System (GPS) modules for accurate location of the vehicle. Many systems also combine a communications component such as cellular or satellite transmitters to communicate the vehicle’s location to a remote user. Vehicle information can be viewed on electronic maps via the Internet or specialized software.
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