Recalculating the Need for Navs

Standard GPS on a 2009 Suzuki SX4

Standard GPS on a 2009 Suzuki SX4

When planning a recent trip to Ireland, I decided not to rent a GPS nav unit with my car. I had a map and printed directions to major destinations, so I thought I was all set.

But the guy at the rental-car company in Dublin changed my mind. He said a “satnav” saved his marriage when he was in France. I didn’t want this trip to end in divorce, so I said OK, figuring I’d use it as a backup.

Well holy smokes, friends, have you ever driven in Ireland? In rural areas, “highways” come to a T with few, if any, signs pointing anywhere worth going. A highway that looks like a major one on the map can be nothing more than a dirt road. Factor in rain and an early sunset, and “The Lady in the Box,” as we started to call the voice in our GPS unit, became our best friend.

But we also started to hate her guts. As we got familiar with our surroundings, we discovered she would lead us in directions that didn’t make any sense. I have a theory that GPS units take drivers past strategically located businesses, because we figured out pretty quickly that we were taking unnecessary detours through business districts. Why get off the N23 to wind through a small town, only to get back on the N23 later? No thank you, Lady in the Box, I’ll just stay on the N23.

“Recalculating,” she’d say in disappointment after I refused to heed her advice.

After we figured out her little trick, we used our Lady in the Box to get us back to civilization when out in the country, and then took her directions mostly as suggestions for driving through cities and towns.

Satellite navigation is a huge market right now, with many carmakers charging a hefty premium for built-in GPS systems. Nissan, though, is starting to offer GPS at a discount, while Suzuki even includes it as standard equipment on the SX4. That’s smart, because pretty soon having a GPS unit in the car will be as expected as having iPod compatibility or windshield wipers. Tacking an extra $2K onto the sales price will just send people laughing right out of the showroom.

Satellite navigation systems are bound to get cheaper, especially as turn-by-turn directions start becoming available through apps on mobile devices. That and integrated systems on more new cars could dry up the market for portable Garmin or Tom Tom units faster than being lost in Ireland could kill a marriage.

Is having a GPS navigation system in a new car expected, or can you do without it?


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