Reinventing satellite navigation

Satellite navigation is one of the most expensive options on new cars today, costing around $2,000. But it is also one of the least flexible and most quickly outdated items in the car.

Although your position is determined by triangulating signals sent by satellites, the information used to generate maps, routes, business listings, etc. sits on a DVD in the trunk of the car.

Manufacturers typically release one DVD a year that captures the updates. (Acura charges $180 for each update.)

This approach has a number of problems:

  • Businesses close and new businesses open continuously.
  • New roads are built.
  • Roads are closed.
  • Mistakes in the database can’t be corrected until the next release.
  • The system has no ability to learn.

Another way to do this would be to store the information on a hard drive or flash memory and continuously update the data via satellite. XM currently offers NavTraffic, which streams live traffic information to the car’s display, on cars like the Acura RL. A similar system could be used to send data updates that are then written to local storage.

This would make it possible to update on a much more frequent basis. If you had the data, you could theoretically include temporary road closures for special events.

The system could also learn from the user’s behavior. For example, they’ve put in a number of new interchanges around my office. As I drive on these new roads, the system could add them to available routings. If I frequently ignore certain routings, the system could adjust future routes.

About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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