Fleet News

Technology: satellite navigation

Which way now? The road ahead for sat-nav

JAPAN is renowned for its advances in technology. It is home to the automatic toilet seat, the birthplace of Tamagotchi virtual pets and the first country to introduce pod hotels – tiny capsules in which to accommodate business people overnight.

It is also a long way ahead of the UK when it comes to in-vehicle technology – the vast majority of cars there are fitted with satellite navigation.

Alpine fits millions of units for the Japanese market and as drivers there like to update their systems as often as we update our mobile phones, it is the second largest market after the US. Europe is third. In the Far East, Alpine’s strategy is to launch products in the aftermarket before offering manufacturer-fitted units, as motorists usually want the latest version before they change cars.

As an indication of just how far ahead the Japanese are, Richard Robinson, navigation project manager at Alpine, says UK fleets may not see some of the developments already on the market in Japan for another decade.

He said: ‘On Japanese systems all buildings are mapped in 3D alongside the street. It will be five to 10 years before we see that technology here.’

Functions which have only been recently introduced here have been common for years in Japan. For example, some UK systems now offer traffic jam avoidance linked to sat-nav, a key innovation to reduce mileage and cut the time drivers spend on the road, available in Japan since the early 1990s.

What will satellite-based technology offer in the future? We ask the experts ...

THE futuristic scenes from movies such as Blade Runner and i-Robot could become reality a lot sooner than we think. Developments in GPS and navigation will make autopilot a possibility. A system of full traffic management could be implemented to offer real-time traffic information and automatically re-route motorists approaching a jam. We see the future of the in-car device as a fully integrated digital product, a hand-held unit which is a PC, phone, sat-nav, MP3 player, Blueberry and a PDA.
Steven Ballard, marketing director at Performance Products, manufacturer of satellite-based products

ORGANISATIONS are looking to integrate intelligent satellite navigation into their fleet management solutions. This is the next logical development, as ensuring drivers always find their next destination by the most appropriate route impacts on operational costs and productivity.
John Wisdom, group sales and marketing director at Cybit, telematics service provider

THE mobile phone has the potential to become the do-it-all portable gadget. There have already been staggering increases in storage and processing capabilities, and we expect more. Sat-nav and video will become mainstream smart phone applications in the next few years.
Leo Exter, marketing manager Europe of Mio Technology, which supplies portable satellite navigation units

MOBILE network operators will become the market leaders in the new phase of data based location services. A one-device-fits-all strategy is fuelling this market.
Oliver Heaney, UK head of CELtrak, which manufactures satellite-based monitoring systems

INDUSTRY commentators agree that telematics will be a key feature of the vehicle instrument panel in the future. Applications such as in-vehicle navigation are proving popular, and when combined with real-time traffic information provide a compelling solution.
Dr Oliver Leisten, chief technical officer at Sarantel, manufacturer of antennae used on wireless products

REALISTIC future developments include pay-as-you- drive insurance programmes. The potential benefits to a fleet include knowing where the vehicle is and when it is used to help reduce premiums and monitor driving. Among advanced visual developments will be more realistic mapping. Other ideas include remote diagnostics – with directions to the nearest service garage.
Paul Warner, product development manager at Trafficmaster, which produces satellite navigation, tracking and traffic monitoring products

THE future of satellite navigation is through mobile phones. With ever-more powerful phones with fast processors, huge storage capacity and large colour screens, mobile phone sat-nav is a practical and affordable reality. The benefits for fleet managers are numerous – there’s no need for multiple devices which means reduced capital and management costs.
David Quinn, marketing director at CoPilot Live, which produces a satellite navigation system for pocket PCs

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