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Getting the Best Car Navigation Directions

Every now and then I hear a story about someone who feels that their car navigation device is not giving them an appropriate route and telling them to turn the car around at the earliest convenience.

These days most car navigation devices are so intuitive that nobody reads the manuals. They charge the device up, stick it on the windscreen and get driving. In fact that is pretty much what brands like TomTom encourage you to do. They do also encourage you to go to TomTom Home via your PC and the Internet to download the latest map as well as the current configuration of the satellites so that you get a quick connection in the car. But this is not what I am writing about.

If you buy a new car navigation device using our maps (and given that we have 93% marketshare in the industry, in most cases it is our maps) you can pretty much rely on them being accurate.

There are 2 main reasons why people don’t always get the result they expected.

First of all you can program the way your navigation device gives you directions. Depending on the brand and model, you actually have the ability to influence the way the device works. For example:

  • By default your GPS unit is programmed to navigate via the ‘Fastest Route’. The way that works is that it will have a preference for the higher road classes, i.e. main roads, motorways, expressways and so on. The first reason for that is that major roads are designed for faster throughput. Often the speed limit is higher so you can drive faster. That means that if you can get to your destination by parallel roads such as Great South Rd in Auckland and Manukau and the Southern Motorway, the Southern Motorway will usually be much faster.
  • You can program your car navigation device to drive by the ‘Shortest Route.’ Now it will compute your route solely on driving distance. In some areas this may be quicker, for example many rural roads in the Waikato are long straight roads and in many cases have very little traffic. This could make the journey faster, but this is local knowledge. In urban areas taking the shortest route may well mean getting stuck at compulsory ‘Stop’ or ‘Give Way’ signs at the major roads while the traffic using the ‘Fastest Route’ zips past in front of you while you are waiting.
  • Some devices, such as some of the Navman models allow you to use a ‘slider’ function which allows you to weight the routing style to a balance that you like. This is complex and unless you know what you are doing, I would stick with ‘Fastest’ and only change to ‘Shortest’ where you are pretty certain it will get you there on time.
  • Another factor is local knowledge. When you commute or go to certain places regularly, you will have learned about the odd bottleneck which doesn’t conform to the general rules. The GPS unit is a computer and designed to work within a set framework and a local bottleneck does not come into the equation, yet. So the best scenario is to use a combination of your local knowledge and the instructions from your nav unit.
  • Some devices have a lot more functionality. For example they might let you avoid main roads or motorways, avoid toll roads or gravel roads and so on. If you spend a lot of time driving to unfamiliar places, it really is worth having a look through all the menu options to see what you can do.
  • There are many other levels of information in your device including a large file of Points of Interest. These include everything from your favourite brand of petrol, ATM, accomodation or food, as well as public toilets, boat ramps and pretty much everything you could wish to drive to including emergancy locations such as hospitals, accident & emergancy. You can look for these closest to the car or near your destination.

In summary, what you have is a highly sophisticated computer and like most computer programs, most people only use a small percentage of its functionality. I recommend that you start using it on ‘Fastest Routing’ until you are familiar with how it works. Try ‘shortest’ when you are not in a hurry, or when you are travelling short distances. Then either read the manual or go through the set up screens and check out all the other great functionality your device has to offer. You will be pleased that you did.

September 22, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, driving, driving directions, gps, maps, navman, new zealand, satnav, tomtom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Travelling Salesman Problem

GeoSmart now has a solution available for people wanting to know which order to visit their clients in, so that they can keep time and travel costs to a minimum. This is a form of Route Optimisation known as the Travelling Salesman Problem. GeoSmart also offers complex Route Optimisation under the banner of Route2GO, but that is another story.

With the price of petrol now permanently above NZ$2 a litre and time at a premium, this tool can easily assist people in making the most of their travel.  It could be a delivery truck working out the order of their deliveries and in reverse order how to load the truck. It could be a sales person working out the best way to make their sales calls.

In the illustration you can see that we set the first and last addresses as fixed. In other words we are defining where we start and finish for the day, they don’t have to be the same, the last one could be a motel yo are staying at for the night and the first one might be your home or office. You could just fix the start point and be flexible on the end point and then go to the AA Maps website to decide where to stay for the night and even make the booking before you leave.

In the illustration, the sales person guessed an order in which to do the calls, but the optimised route cut 34km from the route and at the (adjustable) per km rate resulted in savings of $10 on the trip.

This tool doesn’t just have to be used for a set of destinations. It could also be used as a trip/price calculator. For example one of our new clients is putting this tool (slightly modified so that you can’t edit the price per km which only he can do on his site) so that people can get their own quote on a delivery job without having to ring the company.

Many companies pay staff or contractors on the basis of an agreed distance, it could be for commuting, or for visiting clients, patients etc. This tool can calculate the ‘fastest’ route between clients and will deliver a consistent result that can reduce arguments and deliver an equitable result.

There are other standard features to this tool, for example click on any of the letters denoting locations and the map will instantly zoom to that location so you can see it better. The maps are dynamic and do of course have full pan and zoom functionality.

This optimisation is possible because GeoSmart has a full turn restriction database for New Zealand so when it calculates these directions it knows all about one-way streets, dual carriageways, no right turn, no left turn etc. This is in fact the same database used by te leading car navigation brands including TomTom, Navman, Siemens VDO, BMW, Ford, Honda,Horizon and Nav N Go.

If you have a route optimisation problem, please send us an email to info@geosmart .co.nz or follow the directions on our Contact Page.

June 16, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, cartography, Delivery, driving, Freight, gps, maps, new zealand, petrol, Sales | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment