Why I love in-car GPS, and how it can be made better

GPSLast week I drove down to DC and made sure the Hertz rental car had GPS.

The drive from new york to DC is fairly straightforward, but I still don’t know my way around DC that well, and after living in new york all these years, any city that’s not setup as a grid of streets and avenues just seems extra difficult to navigate 🙂

So the GPS unit — I believe called NeverLost V3 — worked pretty well, although it got a bit confused on 95 a few times reminding me to “keep to the left FOLLOWED by a keep to the left” even though there weren’t any exits or turns to take.

But I really do love GPS navigation. Not having to be on the lookout for exits that have a starbucks ( it’s all displayed in the GPS dashboard ) is huge, and also not needing anyone else in the car to help navigate is a big win.

But the big missing feature is traffic info. Selecting “shortest time” really is just a guess. Google Maps on my blackberry includes some traffic info, but not enough to help me avoid delays. A few companies like Dash have introduced traffic info in their GPS devices by using historical traffic information, and adding a novel approach of getting traffic info from other cars on the highway that use the Dash system — very cool. ( update: Dash is looking for beta testers )

The flaw with this system is that you need everyone using the same manufacturers GPS system, and that’s just not going to be a reality anytime soon given all the various companies that are putting out GPS devices.

What we need, in my opinion, is an opt-in, open standard for sharing in-car/traffic information that any device and any opted-in person can tap into, plus a commercial consortium or W3C style governing body to maintain and evolve a standard. This data would then be stored centrally or perhaps in a non-central torrent style cloud of people within a 50 miles radius ( this needs more thinking and flushing out 🙂 ).

And as GPS is incorporated more and more into our mobile phone devices, that should give us a huge installed user base of in-car and mobile devices sharing information about traffic and other conditions. That would be infinitely better than participating in the manufacturers small group of users, and would dramatically increase the chances of having tons of good data on the highway you were looking to avoid b/c of traffic.

The manufacturers would then compete on interface design, features, UI, etc. In addition I would require people to share info from their car if they wanted to get access to the data – think bittorrent like in that you can’t get data without sharing data. That way you could opt-out and simply not get traffic info if you were worried about privacy/tracking.

4 thoughts on “Why I love in-car GPS, and how it can be made better

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