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Lost nd found; GPS car systems changing driving.

Byline: Steven H. Foskett Jr.

Edward P. Pearson of Southboro commutes to work in Boston and often takes trips out of state with his family. One regular companion in his 2005 Infiniti G35x sedan is the built-in navigation system that rises from the dashboard with the push of a button.

Mr. Pearson said the system keeps him from getting lost and occasionally helps find other routes home to avoid traffic backups on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

"I've learned so many new ways to get home every day," said Mr. Pearson.

With an utterly pleasant and vaguely British accent, a small digitized box in the middle of millions of car dashboards across America has been slowly but consistently eating away at motoring traditions such as stopping to ask for directions, fumbling with a folded-up map, one eye on the road, or simply getting lost at all.

In-car navigation systems use global positioning system, or GPS, satellite technology to guide drivers to their destinations. The units are available in many cars, particularly toward the luxury end of the market, and there are in-dash and mobile aftermarket units available from most major mobile electronics manufacturers.

According to research from market analyst ISuppli, shipments of car navigation and global positioning systems could reach 65.1 million units by 2012, more than three times the 19.8 million shipped in 2006.

The Consumer Electronics Association has reported an 80 percent owner satisfaction rate for GPS navigation systems, which are used by consumers primarily for navigation assistance in a vehicle.

When it's not being used, the navigation system in Mr. Pearson's Infiniti hides beneath a panel that tucks neatly into the center of the dashboard. With one push of a button, it rises from the dash, not unlike a submarine periscope.

Mr. Pearson, the manager of financial systems at a Boston law firm, breezed through a few menus in the parking lot of the Piccadilly Pub on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester on a recent evening. He called up a menu to choose a destination. It certainly isn't difficult to find Wells Street from Piccadilly Pub - it's just a few blocks away, off Plantation Street. But Mr. Pearson's navigation system commands were perfectly timed, and spot on to the house number.

Has it ever steered Mr. Pearson wrong?

"Not really, no," Mr. Pearson said, adding that he hasn't

bought the updated DVD that at least attempts to map out the latest version of the Big Dig in Boston.

Navigation is no longer simply just about directions, according to Nathan Doggart, a salesman at Acura of Auburn. In most navigation systems, the GPS works in tandem with a DVD or hard drive that contains layers of data that map out restaurants, points of interest, parks and gas stations, among other destinations.

Mr. Doggart said Acura's latest navigation offering understands voice commands, can point drivers to nearby restaurants and even can be equipped to offer Zagat restaurant, hotel and nightlife reviews.

"It's not that you don't know how to get to work," Mr. Doggart said. "It's that you might feel like getting Starbucks when you're halfway there."

Bryan Case of the Sound Sensation, a mobile electronics retailer in Auburn, said aftermarket navigation units have many of the same features as factory installed units. One feature making its way into more systems is real-time traffic monitoring. Mr. Chase said the service works with satellite radio to provide updates and alert drivers to detours, heavy traffic and accidents.

Some features require subscription costs, and drivers may want to update their DVD or hard-drive discs every few years, Mr. Chase said. A typical navigation system can cost from $1,000 to $2,200 installed, he said. Factory navigation systems are usually included in certain option bundles.

Mr. Pearson said that while he frequently uses the navigation system in his Infiniti, he hasn't felt the urge to buy a hand-held personal navigation unit.

"I've seen the portable ones," Mr. Pearson said. "But I think it would just be one more thing to carry around."

Contact Steven H. Foskett by e-mail at

What is GPS

The U.S. Global Positioning System works with three parts: a network of

27 satellites (24 in operation and three extras in case one fails), one

of five control stations on Earth that manage the satellites, and the

receiving device you carry with you.

The U.S. military developed and implemented this satellite network as a

military navigation system, but soon opened it up to everybody else.

Each of these 3,000- to 4,000-pound solar-powered satellites orbits the

globe at about 12,000 miles, making two complete revolutions every day.

The orbits are arranged so that at any time, anywhere on Earth, there

are at least four satellites visible in the sky.

Each satellite is constantly beaming out a radio-wave signal toward

Earth. The receiver listens out for these signals and, if it can pick

up signals from three or four different satellites, it can figure out

your precise location (including your altitude).

How GPS works

A GPS receivers job is to locate three or more of these satellites,

figure out the distance to each, and use this information to deduce its

own location. This operation is based on a simple mathematical

principle called triangulation.

1. If your satellite receiver picks up a signal from the yellow

satellite, you must be somewhere on the yellow circle.

2. If youre also picking up signals from the blue and red satellites,

you must be at the white dot where the signals from the three

satellites meet.




CUTLINE: (PHOTO 1) Edward P. Pearson of Southboro says the navigation system in his Infiniti sedan helps him find routes around traffic backups. (PHOTO 2) Bryan Case of the Sound Sensation in Auburn shows some GPS models the store sells for car dashboards.(GRAPHIC) What is GPS?
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 22, 2007
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