Updated date:

GPS Navigation Systems for Your Car, Truck or RV - Making Travel Easier and Safer

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.

GPS Tracking System

GPS used to track the location of a vehicle

GPS used to track the location of a vehicle

What is a GPS System?

Commercial Global Positioning Systems or "GPS in a box" units became popular when the US government allowed civilians to use the existing military satellites already placed in orbit around the Earth.

These satellites were originally placed in orbit for use by the military to accurately navigate around the land and seas on the planet. A specially designed receiver on the surface could receive the signals from at least three of these strategically placed satellites and after some calculations, the receiver could estimate where it was positioned on the planet with an precision of less than 4 meters, or 13 feet.

Once this data was made available to the public, commercial navigation systems were developed to help the average person as they traveled.

The data these systems received for location calculations was in latitude and longitude coordinates, and companies immediately started converting these coordinates into actual addresses on maps which the average citizen could use.

Commercial GPS Receivers

Companies such as Garmin and Tom-Tom were among the first to develp a stand-alone unit that could receive GPS signals and at the same time display a recognizable map of an area of the country.

On this map, they could accurately display the actual location of their GPS receiver on the map for the user.

The GPS receiver already knew where it was on the map, and if the user added the address of the place they wanted to travel to, the unit it could estimate the distance to this destination.

And because it also had a database of the legal speed limits on all of the roads mapped, it could estimate the time (ETA) remaining to arrive at the destination.

These first GPS receivers were sold cheaply and immediately became popular everywhere.

Of course, the government GPS systems used today have a far finer accuracy for locations, but whatever that accuracy may be, is secret and we could only guess at this number.

The Evolution of Navigation Systems

These navigation systems made more and more information available to the owners which inspired many travel, hotel, dining and entertainment applications.

The first class of additions available on a commercial GPS system was collections of POIs, or Points of Interest. POI files could be added to the maps of some GPS systems and they would be displayed right on the owner's map as they traveled.

Originally POIs included fuel stops, hotels, restaurants, fast food chains, service stations, and more.

Eventually the demand for more and more information led to today's navigation systems that even allow the operator to search for any address they desired with a high degree of confidence that it would be in the database of the navigation system.

Automotive Navigation Systems

Automotive manufacturers were quick to recognize that drivers wanted a good navigation system in their vehicles.

In their more expensive vehicles, manufacturers added a display and contracted with the top GPS navigation system manufacturers to develop a software version that would work in their vehicles.

SmartPhone Navigation Systems and Search Engines

Along with the evolution of SmartPhones around the world, there was an ongoing evolution of numerous apps, or applications, that utilized the built-in GPS receiver chips that were in all SmartPhones.

Over time some apps used GPS data for other things, but the most popular apps were navigation-oriented packages, the most popular of which were Maps (by Apple), Google Maps, and the third is most likely Waze.

All three, and the others I didn't mention of course, had something else available to them and that was the web. The web was sitting there, being used most often at that time for emails and personal searches for information.

Navigation Systems on the other hand already had access to the SmartPhone owner's contacts data including the contact's address, so the next step was to utilize the available web access and then search for and include any address the user might enter.

This way of providing directions to and from any place anywher, was accepted by users with a yawn by this time in the evolution of personal technology, but it has made the use of SmartPhone-provided locations revolutionary.

And, right now, major companies are out driving the streets of America and the world taking thousands of miles of video data of the locations they drive by and through each day. So yeah, you can not only get directions to a location, but more and more often, you can see a video or a still picture of that location.

CarPlay and Android Auto

Smartphones have two major operating systems: Apple IOS, which is used in APPLE cell phone products only, and Android IOS, which is used by pretty much all other cell phones.

Each of the companies that own these cell phone operating systems has developed a special software system that automotive manufacturers can install in their vehicles to allow their automobiles to connect to and use certain of the apps on the owner's phones uses.

These interconnect software systems are CarPlay (from Apple) and Android Auto (from Android).

If your automobile has these packages installed in them then the SmartPhone owner can connect a cable between the phone and the automobile's USB connector. Once connected, the automobile will display certain apps and even allow them to operate on the automobile's display and sound systems.

In fact, many automobile manufacturers no longer provide a built-in navigation system of their own, but rather allow the owner to use their own smartphone's navigation system while viewing the phone's maps and data on the automobile display.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Don Bobbitt

Related Articles