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Mapping New Zealand with the RAPIDcV

The car is the brainchild of our GM Phil Allen who says “This is the most advanced mapping car to drive New Zealand roads. We have driven all of New Zealand’s roads with differential GPS before, but this car has leading edge technology. New technologies demand superior quality data.”

While other cars are getting pretty good information and imagery, pretty good isn’t enough for today’s needs. This car is collecting up to a terabyte of data a month from five cameras catching lane information, street signs, turn restrictions and points of interest. We are capturing lane information, road curb and other information of value to councils, road maintenance, utility companies (managing roadside assets) and much more. We are also taking a 360 degree panorama photo every 50 metres.

So what’s leading edge? How about an IMU? This is an Inertial Measurement Unit as used in modern missile tracking systems and allows us to capture data with accuracy of 15 centimetres, even when the GPS signals are weak or lost. With traditional differential GPS accuracy is lost when the satellite signal is poor such as behind volcanic hill shadows and particularly in places in the South Island where the satellites are very low on the horizon or totally obscured from the GPS antenna.

The car is capturing valuable information including inclinometer (the rate of incline and decline of the hill which can be useful for all sorts of things beyond navigation, for example in data for cycling, training for marathons, car rallies. It is also measuring road camber.  By providing road camber information to services such as Fleet Management it may be possible to reduce truck accidents where they approach corners to fast for the height and load, based on knowing the angle of the road camber through corners.

Nothing has been spared when it comes to accuracy. The nature of the work means that we had to use a SUV and the trade off is body roll. To compensate for this we have sonic technology which measures the body roll and this is used in data calculation algorithms making sure that our data is highly accurate.

This unique vehicle is going to enable us to provide for the ever changing demands of new technologies with the best national data ever collected in New Zealand. It is part of our continuous ongoing driving program supporting a range of products including the leading brands in Car Navigation (brands such as Navman and TomTom) and Fleet Management (brands such as Navman, Xlerate, Astrata) as well as clients who will use the imagery to reduce the need to do their own driving.

GeoSmart has built a console to monitor the information and is also creating plug-ins to allow the visual data to be used in conjunction with GIS systems such as Intergraph and has the ability to pinpoint the location of street hardware such as power poles and transformers.

When people see the vehicle, we want them to know what we are up to, so they will understand that we are working to enhance the mapping products and services they use including websites like AA Maps and Wises, the Map Books they carry in their cars and the car navigation devices they use.

December 1, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, driving, driving directions, gps, lbs, maps, new zealand, satnav, Uncategorized, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Is your business listed in car navigation?

A few weeks ago we advised that you can have a free map of your business location on your website, complete with driving directions from anywhere in New Zealand. A lot of companies have taken us up on our offer and we would love more people to take advantage of it.

Another feature of the AA Maps Bizlocator is that your company location information will also be provided to the major car navigation brands in New Zealand. Even if you don’t have a website, or don’t want a map of your business location on your site, you can still register your business location on the form, which you can find by clicking on the button that says ‘Add Your Business For Free’ on the AA Maps web page.

By completing your information and after validation, your companies details will be included in the Points of Interest data we supply to all the major car navigation brads including Navman, TomTom, Nav N Go, Horizon, BMW, Siemens VDO and more. This means that if people are in their car looking for your type of business, they will be able to find it and be conveniently guided to your door.

It doesn’t matter what your business is, it could be a cafe, a stationery shop, a dentist or pretty much anything. Car navigation systems allow people to search for businesses by category, close to where the car is at the time or close to the destination the driver is going to.

For example, let’s say someone is going to Rotorua for a sporting event and they need to buy some new runners or a spare bike tyre, they can then find your business without any local knowledge or needing the Internet or a phone book.

The service to you is totally free, the only catch is that you have to log on to your free account at AA Maps at least once a year to confirm that your information is still current.

September 15, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, driving, driving directions, gps, maps, new zealand, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free New Zealand web cartography tools for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Free New Zealand web cartography tools for educational and non-commercial purposes.

As the Gold Sponsor for GeoCart’2008, the National Cartography Conference at Auckland University from 1-3 September, GeoSmart Maps Ltd General Manager Phil Allen has announced that GeoSmart is offering a set of web tools for web cartographers for use free of charge for educational and non-commercial use. He will outline these in a presentation at the conference on Wednesday 3 September.

“As the leading supplier of commercial cartographic products in New Zealand, we would like to encourage development of new applications,” said Phil Allen. “There are so many opportunities for people to develop wonderful web and mobile applications and we have the API’s and web services, as well as a wealth of geo-spatial data about New Zealand. “

The tools GeoSmart is making available include:

· Web mapping API

· Points of Interest API

· Geocoding and reverse geocoding web services

· Directions API

· Route Optimisation API

· Vector Graphics API

· Map datasets (NZ map base, Cadastral map base, Census map base)

Using such tools, web cartographers can build complex web, Location Based Services (LBS) and Mobile based GIS solutions such as; Carbon footprints for businesses by measuring the journey times of staff going to and from work and including their business activities to computing calorie burn when a user creates a walk/cycle/running route. The tools include all of the APIs required and a set of maps with many code examples. Allen’s paper will present these tools and advise how educational institutes and the web cartography community at large can take advantage of these for promoting and enhancing our industry.

For more information please contact Luigi Cappel luigi.cappel@geosmart.co.nz

August 29, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, carbon footprint, cartography, driving, driving directions, gps, maps, new zealand, route optimisation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment