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Road Maps vs. GPS

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I went to the local electronics big box store yesterday and thought I'd find out a little more about the in-car navigation systems on offer. The prices ranges from $169 to $549 Canadian, the price difference being made up in extra features, many of which were non-navigation related (e.g. plays MP3s or movies). But what I found most interesting is this: when you buy a in car navigation system it comes with road data and POIs already loaded into the system. Which means, the model year of the unit is also the date of the road data. There were 2007 models on display with, obviously, 2007 road data. Updates are available for most of the units (the cheaper units can't be updated) but the updates themselves cost $65 to $100 and requires the user to active update the unit (i.e. no automatic updates via a subscription service).

In short - you can spend $169 for a low end in car navigation unit only to have it out of date in a year or two. If you want to update, you'll need to spend another $169 (or whatever the going price will be) for a new unit. Or you spend a bit more on a new unit, then spend an additional amount every year or every other year updating it. It seems to me to be much more expensive than buying a new street atlas every year. I wonder how many people are actually aware of this? In my personal opinion, in-car navigation sales have been driven by the gadget conscious instead of the value conscious.

As well, I looked at the road content for a number of Garmins, TomToms, Magellans and Sonys while I was in the store and discovered ALL of them to be out of date. Streets and neighbourhoods that have been in existence for more than 2 years were not shown on some and were incomplete on others. I work for a company that produces road maps and am happy to see that, in terms of accuracy, our products beat the pants off anything in the in car navigation market. (but you'll have to calculate your own directions).

Personally, I think that online mapping sites are a greater threat to the paper map market than in car navigation systems. These sites are at least more up to date and can now be more widely accessed via smartphones.

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