Getting lost the high-tech way

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 15th September 2009.

I’ve always prided myself on having a reasonable sense of direction, and combined with an ability to read a map (thanks to my Scouting years), I had not been able to justify the purchase of a GPS navigator…until recently.

Initially very expensive and occasionally inaccurate, navigators are now becoming much more affordable, and the loan of one to guide my way from Orange to Canberra airport and back finally convinced me to bite the bullet and buy the Tom Tom Go730.

Tom Tom NV are a Dutch company who specialise in car navigation systems. With headquarters in Amsterdam, they are the leading maker of navigation systems in Europe, and are a popular brand here in Australia.

The Go730 features a large 4.3 inch touchscreen. The menu and control system is very easy to use. My only gripe is that it is takes quite a few presses to get to the route cancel control, so that the navigator pinpoints your location on the map but does not try to direct you anywhere. This is handy when you are driving short distances and don’t require direction.

Adding a destination is simply a matter of typing in a postcode, town, or specific address. The Go730 also features a speech recognition facility which allows you to speak the address. So far, it has not had any problems with my Australian accent.

 IQ Routes is a feature that allows the Go730 to give you an estimate on the travelling time to your destination. Based on information collected by Tom Tom devices around Australia and automatically uploaded whenever they are connected to a PC with web access, this is a handy feature for those times when someone wants to know how long you’ll be before you get there.

Tom Tom also allows Australian users to make corrections to maps which are then shared via regular updates from the official Tom Tom website or automatically when you place the device on the handy USB recharging dock.

The Go730 has a built-in FM transmitter that allows the spoken directions to be played via the car radio. It will also play mp3 music or audio files and the smallish 600MB internal memory can be expanded with the insertion of a 2GB SD card.

One of my pet hates is missing mobile phone calls whilst I am driving. The Go730 also doubles as a handfree unit to allow you to legally take those important calls on the road. It will also display your text messages and you can reply to them via the touchsceen, although I cannot imagine it being very safe to do so when driving.

My favourite feature of the Go730 is the numerous voices available to download via the Tom Tom website. Fancy having your directions read by Burt Reynolds, John Cleese, Mr T, Dennis Hopper or Kim Cattrall? These voices are all available to purchase. Many others accents, dialects and non-celebrity are available to download for free. Currently, Homer Simpson voices my navigator. A source of great amusement currently, this may become irritating on a lengthy trip.

A recent study has shown that navigation devices can distract a driver and reduce the quality of their driving, however, they are still much safer than a lost motorist. As street directory sales slump and GPS devices become much more commonplace, a personal navigator is an ideal way to avoid that horrible feeling of being lost.

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Published in: on January 9, 2010 at 23:33  Leave a Comment  
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