Sat-Nav Systems In India: GPS Satellite Navigation Systems Explained

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In the past, only the Missus and the brats would dictate where you guys were going. But now, cars are taking over the decision making, of the route at least, with satellite navigation systems rapidly gaining popularity in automobiles around the country.

India is developing at an astonishing pace, and our road network is now constantly being upgraded with huge amounts of funding finally going towards improving our tarmac. In fact, the government is presently targeting an addition of 30 kilometres of roads per day.

Because of such rapid development giving rise to new roads and new rules for existing roads, it has become a nightmare to orient yourself to your location and find your destination easily. Stopping and asking for directions is not always an option any more, because you'd probably get beaten up these days for holding up traffic.

So let's take a closer look at satellite navigation systems, including how they work, their key features, what advantages they offer for road users in the country, and more.

What are automobile satellite navigation systems?

These are satellite navigation (sat-nav) systems that are designed for use in cars. They actually have quite a simple working. Global positioning is possible because of satellites that orbit the earth. The GPS (Global Positioning System) device picks up radio signals with orbital and timing information that are beamed down to earth from a series of satellites, similar to how your car radio picks up a station. The device then uses this information to calculate your vehicle position.

Where is India on the sat-nav map?

India has just launched its fourth satellite, and the IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) is heading closer to its independent navigation satellite system goal for the country, similar to the United States and Japan. The plan is to put seven satellites into orbit, that will serve both civilian and military applications.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

1. Distance to destination

One of the most basic features of sat-nav is that it provides you with the distance to your chosen destination from your current location.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

2. Street address look-up

More and more good sat-nav units give you the option of inputting your destination address, with the system taking over after that to give you a route all the way up to your keyed-in door number.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

3. Real-time traffic updates

While several basic sat-nav systems don't offer this service, many of the more upmarket units will provide you with live traffic information.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

4. Alternate routes

This feature is often connected with the traffic updates tool, and provides users with alternate routes of travel for reasons like excessive traffic congestion, closed roads, etc.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

5. Voice-guided directions

Most satellite navigation systems feature voice-guided directions now, so it reduces distraction when the sat-nav is in use.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

6. Points of interest (POI)

A very useful tool with modern sat-nav systems is the POI feature, which displays various kinds of POIs along your route, like ATMs, hospitals, restaurants, malls, etc.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

7. ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival)

Your sat-nav unit can provide you with information about expected travel time to your destination.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

8. Latitude/Longtitude

Sat-nav systems also provide you with your precise geographical location, with latitudinal and longitudinal co-ordinates.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

9. Accurate vehicle speed

Even modern cars have a small error in speedometer readings, so if you're really concerned about your fastest speed during your highway blast, it's best you rely on the accuracy of vehicle speed from your sat-nav system instead.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

10. Speed limits

Several sat-nav systems have this inbuilt feature, namely, displaying a warning if you're over the designated speed limit in that area. Not always applicable on our roads, but it's there, just in case.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

11. 3-D road mapping

Modern day sat-nav units often have three-dimensional representations of the road and the places around, so displays are looking increasingly cool these days.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

12. Altitude

Satellite navigation systems can also provide information about your height above sea level, which will no doubt be appreciated by the adventurer in you.

What information can your satellite navigation system give you?

13. Updated maps

Most satellite navigation system providers offer regular updates for the map database in your car, often for a non-substantial sum.

What are the advantages of sat-nav systems?

1. Peace of mind

When all you need to do is follow directions from your sat-nav unit, travelling to new places becomes much easier. Just turn up your AC and let the system do the talking.

What are the advantages of sat-nav systems?

2. Independent of the Internet

Sat-nav systems work independently of the Internet, so you need not worry if you lose connectivity, unlike Google Maps for example, which is dependent on the Web.

What are the advantages of sat-nav systems?

3. Affordability

With the recent digital electronic revolution, sat-nav systems have become cheaper to manufacture. As a result the end user is benefited because of increased accessibility.

What are the advantages of sat-nav systems?

4. Easy-to-use

Don't think there's a Sat-Nav For Dummies edition out, and with good reason. Because modern day systems are generally easy to navigate and use, more and more people are getting used to this luxury.

What are the advantages of sat-nav systems?

5. Multi-function integration

More and more sat-nav systems offer more than just navigation, since it is now possible to integrate media players, picture viewers, reverse cameras, and more, to your setup.

How do you install a sat-nav system in your car?

There are three common ways to do this:

1. Portable devices: These are removable GPS units that mount themselves to the windscreen or dashboard, and usually powered by the cigarette lighter power socket.

2. Original factory equipment: This is when the sat-nav unit comes pre-installed in your car, or when you have an option to retrofit the factory-supplied GPS system.

3. Aftermarket: These sat-nav systems are often cheaper option than a factory-supplied unit, and can be integrated permanently in the vehicle, with or without interior modification.

What are some popular sat-nav brands in the country?

MapmyIndia is the leader in the sat-nav market, with 9 devices in their line up presently, ranging from INR 6,990 to upwards of INR 16,000. TomTom is another well established brand, currently selling the Via Series and Start Series of sat-nav systems with prices starting from around INR 9,500. Garmin too, is another well-known brand, with products starting from approximately INR 8,000.

The last word

Sat-nav and GPS are two technologies that are here to stay, so better join the queue, or you will unnecessarily be putting yourself through hellish experiences of locating destinations, be it in your own town or city, or out on the roads less travelled. But also be warned to keep your eyes on the road, and use discretion when it comes to following GPS directions, because we live in a country where rules (and entire roads) often change faster than these maps can update themselves. All in all, sat-nav will soon be a necessity whether we like it or not, so consider it a very worthwhile investment.

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Story first published: Thursday, March 12, 2015, 12:27 [IST]
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