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The Answer to “Where Are We Now?”

Well, another summer has come and gone. Fall is here and school is back in session. For many people, this means sending their kids off to college for the first time. While some students attend a school close to home, others will be moving out of the area. If you haven’t already done so, now may be the perfect time to invest in a vehicle navigation system.

I don’t have kids going to college, but I have encountered situations where a vehicle navigation system came in handy. One that comes to mind occurred about a year ago. My wife and I took a vacation to Sonoma County in California. We rented a car at the airport in San Francisco and were asked by the car rental agent if we would like to rent a vehicle navigation system. While we had brought plenty of road maps, we thought this would be a good idea. After the agent explained how to use it, we took it to our car and hooked it up. The vehicle navigation system projects a map on its screen that continually updates to show you exactly where you are as well as how far you are from your next turn. Our system also featured spoken directions so we could keep our eyes on the road. If you miss a turn or see something along the way that takes you off your route, the system will recalculate your current position and tell you how to continue to your original destination. We could also locate restaurants, gas stations, hotels and other attractions at the push of a button.

As with any product, not all vehicle navigation systems are created equal. Recalculation speeds vary. Some only take a second or so to recalculate while slower models take several seconds. Better systems allow you to select a route based on quickest travel time, shortest distance or type of roads. Map storage capacity varies as well. Some vehicle navigation systems only contain maps for the lower 48 states. Better systems may include Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some systems have a feature that estimates your current position when you’ve temporarily lost GPS reception. Researching different brands is easy as there many sources of information available on the internet or simply visit your local electronics store.

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