Tuesday, October 13, 2009

GPS Navigation: Experience & Missing features

How does it feel to have 9 multi-billion dollar satellites in space monitoring you real-time (to the accuracy of 10 meters) and guide you to your destination? Last week I’d my first trip which was assisted fully by GPS Navigation. Day 1 we went to Pulicat Lake & Srharikota and Day 2 we covered Pondy, Gingee fort and Alamparai Fort. We’d used GPS in Yercaud trip, but that was only in Salem city to find out how to connect to the road that takes us to Yercaud hill. In this trip we used it for all purposes like searching the place, calculating distance & ETA, locating nearest fuel station, identifying shortest path and turn by turn navigation to reach there. Overall it was very useful- There was no need to stop and ask anyone for directions.

Some good things:

We used Google maps. There was no need to buy any maps from 3rd party vendors. Accuracy was very high (except for some of the limitations listed below). Loading time was also very fast (even faster second time onwards as it saves details locally in phone memory), Rerouting was also pretty efficient.The sole limitation was that it drains battery heavily.

Missing features:

In India, I wish GPS navigation comes with following additional features:

Note: Most of the below may not be practical and are written with a humorous note. We recommend sensible driving and paying toll fees. Please drive slow, do not overtake from left and follow lane discipline.

1 Real time Road digging information- Information on construction activities, ongoing road digging activities across and along the roads should be made available to users so that they can avoid such roads where possible.

2 Information on speed breakers, height barriers and potholes ahead. If GPS can warn me that there’s a speed breaker ahead, I can slow down in time and avoid having to abruptly slowdown from 120kmph to 20kmph within 200 meters. Also it should tell me if the hump is too big (so that I’ll have to come to complete halt) or a medium or gentle one (so that I can ride over it in 2nd or 3rd gear). Similarly info on height barriers and major potholes will help.

3 Information on entry restrictions for certain vehicles: In Pondy we were heading towards Cuddalore road following the navigational directions. We were stopped by a board which said “No entry for 3 and 4 wheelers”. This kind of information can be provided by GPS Service provider. (Note: One way information are already provided)

4 Information on width and length of mud road adjacent to main road- While returning from auto-by-sideAlamparai fort, As soon as we crossed Maarg Swarnabhumi campus, we got stuck in a huge traffic jam on ECR. An AR Rehman live concert was happening there that evening. With over 30,000 to 40,000 people heading towards the venue, most of them in their own vehicles, on a narrow 2 lane east coast road, traffic jam was imminent. We were moving inch by inch. At places, where there was some additional land to the left of the road, some vehicles used to overtake from left, gain advantage of few hundred meters and then force their way back to main lane when the side-way abruptly ends. (Refer image of auto overtaking from left) Depending on how aggressive the overtaking driver is and how accommodative vehicles behind, some drivers got struck on the side road when their road ended, while few made decent progress towards their destination overtaking from left and entering main lane several hundred meters ahead. Now, if GPS can tell- “the width & length of mud path adjacent to you can take you for over 5 00 meters”, may be one can take a chance and cut to left. If the length is only 25 meters, then it might make more sense to stick to your lane. This kind of features are missing in GPS. Note: While calculating width of mud path, satellite should consider poles and other obstacles. :)

5 Information on toll gates ahead and ways to bypass it (where feasible): Self explanatory- isn’t it?

6 While it is possible to find out nearest fuel stations (or other utilities), it will be nice if it can tell if ordinary petrol/diesel is currently available there or they’re selling only premium branded fuels under the pretext of not having stock of regular fuel.

7 Manual barricades and private properties: We wanted to reach Paradise island by road ablocked-roadnd were exploring shortcuts to reach there. While map suggested a shorter route, after driving half-way what we saw was this (refer image): it was a private land and road was blocked by half, preventing cars from passing through. We’d to come back, take a detour. (Similarly, Auroville has multiple entrances and map was showing all of them, but only one is open for tourists, so tracing other routes would have resulted in extra travel)

8 battery power is the biggest constraint for using GPS heavily. A mobile phone batter won’t last more than a few hours if used constantly. More energy efficiency should be possible. The standalone GPS units powered by AA batteries last longer and are preferred by heavy users (like trekkers who go on multi-day trekking inside dense forests), but they're a little complicated to use, due to lesser no of keys, smaller screens and not so friendly menu.


Namita Chandra said...

I think such happening and real time features are not available even abroad. I remember we were in Rome and our coach driver kept taking us round and round in circles because wherever the GPS was guiding him there was a new one way. In any case I think the information may be in greater details if you load the maps of that place on your GPS, instead of just using the google maps.

shande said...

GPS devices is not yet powerful and smart for our requirements. Plenty of development is required in this field to make our travel more hassle free.
But for India per se there's substitutes, many a times we can manage by asking people for directions which is not the case abroad.