About 15 years ago, PR departments first began indoctrinating the mainstream media with the message about the coming age of convergence - and in case you have not noticed, this much-touted new age has arrived. For this review, I decided to see how the convergence trend was playing out in the in-car navigation space. I procured devices hailing from the automobile, PC and burgeoning handheld GPS receiver sectors and tested how well they guided me from point A to B while driving.
Test car outfitted with three navigation systems (Photo by Julia Gain)
As an American often lost in Europe with a poor sense of direction, I tried to find my way around France and Switzerland while driving with navigation systems pre-installed in the BMW 3-Series and Saab 9-5 cars, the Navman ICN 550 and Garmin Nüvi 350 GPS receivers and the HP rx1950 Navigator PDA. What I learned was that the performance of these different devices was not necessarily tied to their cost.
Some of the systems came with traffic report capabilities, which serve to warn of traffic jams and other problems ahead along your designated itinerary. In Europe, through an FM radio connection, traffic information is communicated to the GPS device from traffic sensors, which then reroute you as needed. However, for this test, either the vendor did not supply the requisite module or just getting some of the devices to work properly proved challenging enough without adding another variable that might only make things worse.