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Can't Navigate Out of a Paper Bag - Comments

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Wow! Substitute '2007 Toyota Prius' for 'Mariner' and 'TomTom' for 'Nuvi' and I could have written this. Except that we did get the current database (and will never ever upgrade for what Toyota wants to charge). And the fact that the Toyota GPS doesn't have text-to-voice capabilities to begin with.

Maybe it's just because I'm a lawyer, but my first response is first ask them to fix the situation and/or refund your money, then, if that doesn't work, SUE for false advertising. This is one of the situations that the legal system IS designed for. Customer (that's you) buys something from a major corporation (THEM) based on advertising by THEM only to find out it doesn't work as advertised. Instead of "Oh, I'm a nobody, I can't get it fixed" we have the option of saying "yes, you're big, but the US Government is bigger."

Just my thoughts.

Don't feel bad. Buying an S Class Mercedes (top of the line for MBZ) isn't much better. My wife's 2006 S Class came with a navigation system that did not recognize the street our home is on. Okay, we are in a suburb of Los Angeles and our home was one year old at the time so we went to the dealer with our concern only to be told we had an "outdated" disc (yes in a brand new car - the excuse was the car was shipped from Germany so by the time it arrived, the disc was outdated. LOL). And yes, they would be more than happy to sell us an "updated" disc for $300.

Since this was late in 2006, we decided to wait for the next updated disc as there were sure to be other updates (the freeway near our city was recently completed and our current disc didn't show that either).

Along comes 2007 and I call the dealer to see if the new disc is available - not yet. I call again mid year - not yet (ad nauseum until Dec. of 2007). I then receive in the mail from NAVTEQ (the manufacturer of the navigation disc for MBZ) an offer to purchase an "updated for 2008" disc for only $200. Good deal, yes? NO.

I purchased the disc, waited two weeks for delivery, put it in the car and discovered my (now three year old) street is still not on the map (but the freeway is!). In a city of 125K plus people, less than 50 miles from downtown L.A., I think my street should be there. (I have driven this street thousands of times so it should also be "verified". LOL) I returned the disc and the following week went for a ride in my friend's Cadillac. Guess what? Yep, my street's on the map.

Next year, we buy Cadillac.

BTW, love your Cranky Customer site. :)

You've stumbled onto a bigger problem -- the nation's road database is simply terrible in rural areas. Why? Because so few people live out here in the wilderness that it doesn't "pay" to keep them up to date. I live on a street that you can't find on MapQuest or Google. And I've found that DeLorme has in its database "roads" that are really paths on private land -- and then tries to route me through them! But, I suppose, there is ONE place that a complaint might do some good. The company that maintains the road database that all the other companies use is Navteq at www.navteq.com, and they have a "road reporter" feature that at least allows you to enter corrections. Whether they'll use them is another matter. I'll know soon.

Sorry you're having so much trouble with your built-in GPS system. I hope you get Ford to at least rebate your additional expense. Prior to moving to Andover, MA, where streets can make three 90 degree turns in a 2 mile stretch and still be called Great Pond Rd., (NOT the part which went straight ahead! LOL)

I bought a Garmin Nuvi 660, their top-of-the-line model, last August, on eBay for less than half of what you spent and about $240 less than street prices. It works great, but I'm 30 minutes North of Boston, not out in the boonies of Colorado. It doesn't ALWAYS give you the most direct route, and sometimes I have to over-ride it, but all in all, it has kept me, a newbie to the area, out of the woods and swamps! To quote an old adage, "Mother Nature is a bitch...she gives the test first and the lesson afterwards." Blame it all on Randy...he should have been there to help you decline the built-in option!

Bought a 2007 Honda Accord with built-in navigation system, love it. It's accurate and easy to use. I could do without the nag screen every time I start the car ("Yes, I WILL drive carefully") and there are a couple other very minor irritations, but it's changed how I drive, I've given up maps.

Being built-in it's integrated with the AM/FM/XM radio and 6-CD changer and tape player, the heating/cooling system, and a bunch of other car subsystems. It does text-to-speech so it tells me turns and landmarks by street name or route number. It's got voice control plus touch-panel plus joystick for data entry. It doesn't care if I'm driving (carefully, of course) while entering data. I can designate areas to avoid so it won't route me through them. The current irritation is that they won't yet sell me the Fall 2007 data DVD. That's because the initial version of that was flawed so it was recalled and they're reserving new production of the fixed DVD for 2008 cars. But how long should it take to bang out a million DVDs? And there's been a lot of construction where I live (Washington, DC area) so the DVD I have is wrong about many changed areas.

My wife liked my nav system so much we got her a Garmin Nuvi 250 which we also love, for trips. It's interesting that the two systems are each better in some ways, worse in others. Hers can be updated free from the Web; I buy DVDs (when they're available) for $175 plus shipping.

Randy -- for your wife's nav system you might look online for people who've hacked it to work better. I've found people hacking the Honda system to ditch the nag screen and make other changes. That would void your warranty -- but that seems to have been DOA anyway so hacking can only make things better.

I have been using a GPS system of some type for almost ten years. The ones I have used were installed on laptops and they NEVER had a problem navigating me around, even in the most rural areas (I lived in NW Minnesota during part of this period). I use one now, installed on my cell phone. Garmin Software and I have yet to have a problem except the odd occasion where I CAN'T find an address due to me not knowing how the data base is setup with street names.

Sometimes even a map can drive you crazy. A few years ago while visiting my daughter in France, we took a long trip to Provence and Cote d'Azure. One night on the way to Carpentras, France from Sault, France, we used the Michelin map to find that road D942 left Sault and arrived in Carpentras in about 45 minutes. The distance was 41 km.

The only problem was that we didn't know that the REAL road turned in to D1 and then back into D942 after 20 km. Naturally we didn't turn on to the D1 but spent a good hour in pitch darkness on a narrow mountain road skirting the edge of a very deep gorge with nowhere to turn around or exit until we got back to the real D942.

Only one car passed us going the other way. Luckily there was a slight widening of the road that made that possible.

I just checked Google Maps and the road we took can be seen as a faint white line, twisting and turning for who knows how many km. And now I find out that we were driving through the Nesque Gorge, a popular hiking location which would have been beautiful in daylight.

Hmmm. Yes, that GPS sounds like it's excessively cautious, all right. That "verified" status is part of the map database, and you've gotta know why they do it: computerized map databases are created by minimum-wage clerks working on giant computer pen-tablet tables tracing paper maps. This sort of thing is shot full of errors. No way can they be relied on without checking.

The Navteq system in my Acura (same as in a Honda) has the grace to still use the unverified data, but pops up a warning when you wander out there. So far, St. George, Utah is the only unverified area I've done a lot of driving in, and that data has been fine.

It's worth noting that the new Navteq DVD includes not only the latest map data (warts and all, with new errors that weren't in the old one) but updated route-generation software as well. The new stuff is a little too smart. It happened to "notice" one stretch of freeway I drive all the time which has an exit and entrance that are connected. That is, you can take the exit, not get off, and drive right back on the freeway by way of the entrance ramp. It also "noticed" that, since the freeway bends to the right at that point, that this road was marginally shorter than staying on the freeway. Result: it always tries to tell me to get off at Western and get back on at Western. Big help.

On the other hand, it now knows freeway exit numbers and calls them out, which it never did on the previous DVD.

One item: the GPS signal is extremely weak. If you know about radio stuff, you might be surprised to learn that the GPS signal is below the "noise floor" on the band. The only way receivers can hear it is that they have built-in knowledge of the data stream the satellites emit: the so-called "chipping code" which is the basis of the GPS signal. They correlate that chipping code against the noise until they detect a signal. As you can imagine, they need all the signal strength they can get.

The GPS antenna in most cars is located beneath the rear window, under the flat spot behind the rear seat. The loss of signal strength at the frequencies used by GPS is huge as the signal travels through the mini-coax to the receiver...and cars being what they are, this cable is often kinked in installation, which makes the GPS receiver congenitally "deaf". So, if your car GPS receiver seems to spend a lot of time not knowing where it is by about 200 feet, this may well be why. Luckily, my car has good signal strength. Even so, a (temporarily) bad constellation geometry can leave my car thinking I'm plowing through the buildings next to the road, despite its prejudice in favor of "jumping" the location cursor onto the nearest road. That's rare, though.

On Navteq systems made by Alpine, hold down the "Map", "Menu" and "Cancel" buttons for five seconds and you'll throw the unit into maintenance mode. From there you can see a report on just how many satellites it's managed to pick up, as well as other interesting things. Beware, though - you can also use this mode to terminally mess up your system.

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Interesting stuff. The antenna for Kit's GPS is on the dash at the base of the windshield -- a good spot to see the sky, and a short cable run to the GPS system. At least some things are done right! -rc

Well, What can I say, I'm a fan of GM products that's what.

There is a gadget magazine called GPS, and they did a test of three top GPS navigation systems over 3 different trips. The GARMIN, The TOM-TOM and Magellin, all three "Top of line" models.

When the results were in, Garmin won all three tests, hands down.

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I'm definitely impressed with mine. -rc

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