Only 10 years ago, a built-in Global Positioning System receiver, or GPS, cost thousands of dollars and had to be professionally installed. GPS reception was intermittent at best, and directional instructions had to be constantly input by hand. Nowadays, built-in GPS receivers are far less expensive, have better reception, and are much more intuitive and agile.
As competition has increased, GPS manufacturers have been forced to offer new features with their devices. For example, built-in GPS receivers now contain searchable databases that display local points of interest such as hotels, restaurants, and gas stations. Partnerships with organizations such as Zagat and AAA allow the GPS receivers to select a point of interest based on its rating, and Bluetooth integration facilitates calling the business location by using the device.
So, what is next for the built-in GPS? Due to advances in satellite communications technology, one focus of interest is the integration of real-time data with GPS devices. Obtaining real-time traffic information, including traffic congestion, road conditions, and accident reports, has been of great interest to consumers. In line with this, upcoming GPS devices will offer street and even lane guidance in order to help drivers avoid heavy traffic situations. They will also be capable of being programmed to direct the driver around areas of congestion.
The incorporation of real-time weather updates has been explored. Real-time news feeds are also in demand, and will become a more standard feature in upcoming GPS units.
Built-in GPS devices are going to increasingly support PDA devices, making it possible to store contacts and information such as e-mails and appointments. Other features will include altimeters, speed limit warnings, and red light camera alerts. Finally, unlike current GPS units, which provide location readings only when the vehicle is moving, upcoming GPS units will incorporate an electronic compass so that the driver can obtain instant readings even while stationary.
As drivers demand more and more information concerning their whereabouts and local points of interest, custom files will become available for purchase and download to the GPS. These custom files may contain 6 million (or more) points of interest, including hotels, area attractions, campgrounds, post offices, banks, ATMs, gas stations, shopping complexes, restaurants, bars, train and bus stations, hospitals and clinics, and much more. These custom files will also be programmable, allowing one to check distance calculations and options to all major airports, for example.
In Europe, built-in GPS units are being released with TV sets installed. This feature only becomes available when the car is stationary. Such technology may soon be offered to consumers in North America.