stands for Global Positioning System. It was originally
designed for use by the U.S. Department of Defence using
orbiting satellites to transmit precise microwave signals
and in the 1980’s it was released for civilian use. GPS
devices pinpoint your location and enable the user to
navigate to a desired destination the user has entered into
Some cars and 4WD vehicles come with a factory installed GPS
but portable devices are also available. The GPS system
consists of GPS receiver, a map data base, and processor to
calculate the route as well as the travel time and
distance. The screen displays the map, latitude and
longitude (information from orbiting satellites), the route
instructions and the speaker to provide the audio
Whilst the devices are fairly accurate it is necessary to
look at the visual information displayed on screen and not rely
solely on the audio directions as the device does at times
briefly loose connection with the satellite. Also roads
displayed on some maps have changed and have yet to be
updated. The Australian map data is generally updated once
a year and these updates can be downloaded from the
manufacturer’s website or purchased from a retailer. The
satellite connection can also be lost or affected by tall
buildings, forests or when travelling in tunnels.
Connection can be improved by installing an external
aerial or antenna. Some of these aerials come with
a magnetic strip to clamp it to the body of the
vehicle and an attaching cable that can be fed back
through the vehicle door or window to the GPS
The GPS display screen may also double for the
screen for a reversing camera if one is to be
Programs such as Destinator, Navman and TomTom are
available for installation in pocket PC’s or PDA’s
but you may likely need to buy a larger memory card
to facilitate this.
For planning trips and 4WD excursions it is often easier to
get the ‘big picture’ first by using paper maps as scrolling
across a number of computer screens is often confusing.
See article on
Google Earth can also be used to view an area in
One GPS system worth looking at, although at the
higher end of the market, is the VMS Touring
Navigator which not only navigates around town but
also rural areas, including the outback. The VMS
Touring Series uses 2009 Where IS for street
navigation and iTOPO topographical maps with 4WD
tracks, caravan parks and campsites are an optional
The VMS Navigation features also include spoken street
names, lane information to assist you with the correct lane
you need to be in for the next turn (which is really helpful
when you are towing a caravan), auto routing, 3D landmarks,
over speed warning and points of interest. Map upgrades are
available every 12 months.
The VMS in-dash A.V.N.C 3000 features off-road topographical
4 x4 GPS, Bluetooth Handsfree, FM/AM radio, Digital TV
tuner, SD card & USB input as well as DVD/CD/mp3 player and
iPod integration control. You can also elect to upgrade the
system with reversing cameras for the vehicle and caravan
with the Touring 500 able to display up to 2 camera images
automatically. The 4 GB SD card can also be upgraded for an
8 GB SD card.
The VMS A.V.N.C range has preloaded Hema 4x4 maps
(1:250,000) and will accept other maps down to 25:000. If a
map is not in digital form it can be manually scanned by the
user and uploaded to the SD card ready for use. Routes and
waypoints can also be plotted.
Digital mapping is defined as the process of storing and
displaying map data in digital form (to store and retrieve
on a computer). These digital image files can be downloaded
off the internet or purchased from publishers who produce
maps by way of CD or DVD for larger files.
When navigating locally an in-car navigation or PDA
device may be fine but in regional areas to get a
bigger picture you may need a large laptop screen.
The screen size will obviously limit the amount of
terrain you can view. The laptop screen may be best
used for planning your trip the night before and
even printing off a colour map using the ‘zoom’
feature because driving with a laptop on your lap
can be very tiring and some units will not stand up
to the rough ride. Also, the laptop screen can also
be difficult to read in strong sunlight.
is a PDA?
PDA is short for ‘personal digital assistant’ which
is a hand held device that may combine computing,
internet, telephone and networking features. A PDA
incorporates a handwriting recognition feature and
so input is by a stylus (writing utensil similar to
a ballpoint pen) rather than a keyboard. Some PDAs
have voice recognition technology so they can react
to voice input.
PDAs are often called hand held computers, pocket computers
or pocket PCs
and its main purpose are to act as a personal organiser.
The latest devices can run multimedia software, connect to
the internet and act as a GPS. Cell phones or mobile phones
now come combined with PDAs.
Any data and programs you add to the PDA are stored in the
devices random access memory (RAM). The more resources
required the more RAM is required so many PDAs accept
removable flash media add on cards.
It is recommended you use an SD (Secure Digital) card for
map storage instead of the internal memory of the PDA as
this will leave more free space for other programs.
PDAs are powered by batteries and the life of the battery
depends on the model and its features. Many PDAs come with
the option for adaptors to connect to standard household
power and/or your vehicle 12V. Backing up your PDA is very
important because you can lose all the data in RAM if all
power sources are depleted.
One such device is the Garmin iQue 3600 combining GPS and
mapping. The manufacturer states some of its features are a
flip-up integrated GPS antenna, speaker for voice–guidance
commands and the capability of loading any Garmin Mapsource
product for Australia, Europe, South Africa or USA. It
comes with a CD rom with City Navigator Australia which
shows detailed street information for metropolitan and
provincial towns plus all rural roads throughout Australia.