One of the highest demanded in-car technology features these days is a navigation system. Originally, these were in-car hard-wired systems that were somewhat clumsy to use and required expensive annual updates to keep them current. Recently, portable hand-held units from Garmin, TomTom, Magellan and others have given consumers the option of having a navigation system that is much less expensive than the hard-wired system, and still can be used out of the vehicle or with other vehicles.
Over the past couple of years, these portable systems have been making in-roads on the fixed systems found in many cars. Where a typical in-car system would cost $1,995 (as the new Ford SIRIUS-SYNC-NAV system does), capable portable NAV unit can be had for under $500.
Suzuki, rightly in our mind, has adopted a strategy that has the best of both worlds and approaches the holy grail we have been seeking for the past decade… more on that later. Anyway, Suzuki will have a Garmin NAV system standard in its 2009 SX4 sedan. This is a first in the compact class of cars. And the collaboration between Suzuki and Garmin has resulted in a pretty slick system. The NAV unit is similar to the familiar Garmin NUVI 700 unit and has a 4.3-inch screen. It plugs into a flip up lid atop the instrument panel and syncs with the audio system. As all Garmin units this one is touch screen and you input destinations just by tapping the screen. While the screen is not the huge 8.5-inches found in some OEM systems, the Suzuki/Garmin system is plenty big enough for most things.
Hats off to Suzuki for being first to the market with an innovative and cost effective way to get NAV into the hands of buyers of less expensive cars.
HOLY GRAIL – PERSONALIZED DATA TRANSPORT – CAR AS RECPTACLE
Now, about the holy grail. Since AutoPacific began conducting consumer research on navigation systems and telematics over a decade ago, it became obvious that the logical solution would be some sort of super PDA or iPod that would be personalized to the driver. The car would be the receptacle and the iPod-esque device would carry music, navigation, personalized vehicle settings, address book, telephone, bluetooth, etc. All that stuff that is becoming an integral part of our 21st century lifestyle. Because all of those things change rapidly, they are not ideal for hard-wiring in a car or truck. We know the industry is working on solutions like this. Just taking too long.