BERLIN: Anyone who rarely drives in large cities and metropolitan areas can experience some unpleasant surprises when they do head for such places.

Traffic jams are one obvious problem, but if you’re driving a camper you also need to worry about the heights of bridges and tunnels.

If you’ve got a good navigation device you can avoid traffic jams and other obstacles.

"The prerequisite is that the navigation devices work with real-time traffic data, because only then can the system suggest a sensible alternative route in good time," says car reviewer Holger Ippen.

However, older devices tend not to have access to real-time data. Ippen isn’t a fan of the classic navigation devices that are stuck to the windshield with a

Show me the way: What retrofitted sat navs can do

BERLIN: Anyone who rarely drives in large cities and metropolitan areas can experience some unpleasant surprises when they do head for such places.

Traffic jams are one obvious problem, but if you’re driving a camper you also need to worry about the heights of bridges and tunnels.

If you’ve got a good navigation device you can avoid traffic jams and other obstacles.

“The prerequisite is that the navigation devices work with real-time traffic data, because only then can the system suggest a sensible alternative route in good time,” says car reviewer Holger Ippen.

However, older devices tend not to have access to real-time data. Ippen isn’t a fan of the classic navigation devices that are stuck to the windshield with a suction cup.

“The data stock is often outdated and if they need an update, they usually have to be connected to a PC in a cumbersome way,” he says.

A smartphone with its continual network connection is clearly superior. If you can also pair it with the car’s entertainment system, the map and instructions will be conveniently displayed on a bigger screen.

Smartphones have limitations too

“With Apple Carplay or Android Auto, the navigation function is significantly more up-to-date and faster than with map-based, permanently installed devices,” says Gerrit Reichel of the ACV, a car association in Germany.

On the other hand, voice control via Apple Siri, for example, doesn’t work smoothly, he says. As well, the route guidance may be interrupted by a phone call. Probably the biggest drawback is how route guidance saps a phone’s battery.

Classic suction-cup navigation devices can still have their uses, for example in camping vehicles.

“With navigation devices for motor homes or caravans, for example, you can enter vehicle data such as height, width, and length in advance,” says Marc Dreckmeier of the CIVD, a caravanning industry organisation in Germany.

“The system then guides you only along roads that meet these requirements.”

Special navis know more

Specialist navigation devices can also offer additional information.

“The systems also know points of interest, such as large parking lots on the outskirts of cities or even campgrounds,” says Dreckmeier.

While newer motorhomes come with the most up-to-date sat navs, add-on devices for older vehicles can offer useful features.

“There are devices to which a rear-view camera can also be connected,” says Dreckmeier. “The nav screen can thus be used for that as well.”

With screen sizes between five and seven inches, some models can also be used as televisions by using integrated DVB-T receivers.

For camping or off-road

Special navigation features are not only available for camping enthusiasts — off-road fans can also benefit.

“Some providers have unpaved roads in addition to the normal road network in the directory. According to the size and weight of the car, you can then select and drive off on certain courses,” Ippen says.

These navigation systems also work with satellite images and elevation profiles.

“Some retrofittable navigation devices are equipped with a front camera, which can then be used for functions such as a dash-cam, a distance warning system or a lane departure warning system,” Ippen says.

Although retrofitted navigation solutions usually can’t compete with factory-installed ones, they do offer good value for older vehicles that don’t have such a system. The rule is to always buy one that can access live data.

Keep an eye on costs

When deciding between an integrated navigation system, a smartphone or an external device, you should always consider the costs. If the integrated navigation system can be upgraded, you’re often looking at US$100 (RM440) to US$200 (RM880) for a map update. But, if the system does not have real-time data, important functions will be missing.

Smartphone solutions, on the other hand, are usually free and offer live data. And those who use a tablet also eliminate the possible disadvantage of a smaller screen. For both the smartphone and the tablet, however, you still have to factor in the purchase of a holder.



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