GPS Systems – How Cool are These Things?

The family and I are planning on taking a road trip to Minneapolis (from Winnipeg) this fall.  Driving for 10 hours with the kids – which includes rest/bathroom stops – won’t be exactly peachy and will probably end up being a blog post in itself (stay tuned for that one).  Since it’s nearly impossible to read a map and concentrate on driving in any major metropolitan area at the same time, I decided to eliminate any fighting that is guaranteed to happen between me and my wife.  I went out and purchased a Magellan GPS system.

After an hour of clicking through the setup and navigation screens and flipping through the manual, I figured out how this thing works.  It’s got some great features (which I’m sure are pretty standard on other brands as well).  Like being able to put in a few destinations in an address book so you don’t have to remember the address each time you want to travel to those places.  After you put these addresses in, it’s a few clicks and away you go.  Another great feature is the voice commands.  “Turn right at Main Street in 3 kilometres.”  When I’m driving the family around, I not only get the GPS voice commands but a few seconds later my son (who sits behind me in the van) tells me I have to turn right up here.

I use it most places I go, even if I know where to turn.  I do this for a few reasons.  1) I’m making sure I know exactly how to use it so when I’m on a 5 lane freeway and it gives me the 3 kilometre warning to turn right, I know I gotta start moving over to the right lane; 2) I’m checking to see how accurate its chosen route is.  Will it choose the same route I would normally go?  Does it know a faster path?; and 3) I think it’s cool.

If you don’t know me (or don’t know me very well), if I think something’s cool, I take amusement in pointing this out all the time.  Every time it tells me to make a turn, I make sure I point that out to my wife.  “Good thing we have this GPS system here,” I’ll say.  To which she response, “you already know where you’re going, you drive here all the time.”  She thinks I’m crazy but hey, what can I say… GPS systems are neat.

Unfortunately it’s not perfect.  There are still some small town maps that are not in its database.  If you’re planning on traveling to a remote location and/or small town, I’d head out to the car and make sure it’s in the GPS’ map before you leave home.  You may need to do some Google mapping before you leave.

One big drawback that I see so far is that map upgrades are expensive.  I know it takes a lot of work to put together all the map locations and points of interest for all of Canada, US and Mexico, for example, but I’m not planning to drive to 99.999% of them which makes the upgrade of $79.99 USD fairly steep.

Wish me luck on those crazy Minneapolis roadways.


About brianwawryk
PMP and Prince2 certified project manager.

2 Responses to GPS Systems – How Cool are These Things?

  1. Paul Marcino says:

    I have used a Garmin GPS device previously, so for current new car; I wanted one built into the car. The big advantages to a car unit vs a handheld or portable unit is: Screen size, processing speed, the fact that the voice system can silence the car’s audio system to give you turn directions; and the fact that since it is mounted in the dash; you don’t have to worry about a Minnesota state trooper pulling you over for have a GPS mounted too high on your windshield…

    And the GPS is quite nice to have. Used it last weekend for a trip to the Minnesota State Fair.

    re: small towns maps – this is more of a problem in Canada; in the States, the various levels of government make the map and street data freely available. In Canada, the governments tend to want to charge big bucks for it.

    And for $79 you can upgrade your maps? Nice; my upgrades would cost $300.

  2. Lynn says:

    When we went to Minneapolis about 7 or 8 years ago it was a challenge. Thank GOD that Chris has a memory like a steal vault! He would look at the map in the morning and actually (I sound like Brogan with this word) remember which way to go ALL DAY!!! This GPS system sure would have come in handy when we drove to California and back home – all 11 states that we visited! Hope you have a fantastic trip!!!!!!!!!

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