Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I haven't had too much time to look online lately, but the one thing that I have got to fiddle with is the Global Positioning System that's in my mom's car. It was developed by the US military, and basically uses a satellite network system to pinpoint the location of a person (or a car) and also an accurate time anywhere on the Earth, with the use of a GPS receiver. It can be used by anyone, anywhere, for no cost. If you want to read more about the technical stuff (of which I am a little confused myself), here is a helpful website... http://explanation-guide.info/meaning/Global-Positioning-System.html

In our car its called the In-Nav system. After putting a disc which contains information about the place you're in (we have one for the North Island at the moment), the user is given many options on the main screen: Navigation, Entertainment, Communication, and Service, and you move through options using a controller which is almost like a mouse on any computer. If you choose Navigation you can choose your destination from a list of street names, or you can also access an information section in which you can find malls, cinemas, parks, etc... As you drive, the GPS will direct you through a voice (you choose whether female or male) as well as on the screen. You can also load the map to aid you, or you can shut the screen off in case it distracts you. You will be warned of any big intersections in advance. Of course it is a big problem when the roads are temporarily closed for work, as of course the sattelite doesn't see through that bit.

The entertainment option allows you too choose whether you want to listen to CD's or FM. Its pretty much the same as any car player, except through the computer. For communication you can use Bluetooth and connect your phone. The service option tells you when you next service date is and lists the BMW number. There is also an "i" which gives you options for the car. You can see if everything is functioning properly in your car including your brakes, or how much gas you have. You can also put in a speed limit at which the car will beep in order to warn you not to go above the limit.

Its not that complicated a system to use, and its also like any computer. What fascinates me, and in a way scares me, is that the car is handled by a computer rather than a person. It mainly scares me because it decides to malfunction the moment you need it the most (just like my faithful laptop does!!!!). We went to Bucklands Beach one night using the GPS and had never been there before. As soon as we put on the car on our way back, the GPS screen showed us as in the sea. We tried to input an address, but she started to guide us on non-existent roads. In the end we had to pull out our trusty old mapbook to guide us back home (and we actually made it!). The problem with programs and other things such as the GPS is that we become dependent on them, and then have the hardest time when things malfunction. Of course other disadvantages of the system can be that the US government has control over us, and if they ever decide to shut the sattelite off in case of war, the people who are dependent will suffer. This is perhaps why other countries are thinking of launching their own sattelites, such as Europe.

All in all, the GPS does make life much easier. I just wonder how long it will be before we actually don't need to drive our cars at all, but just sit along for the ride.


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