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Sat Nav Explained

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 5 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sat Nav Explained

Satellite navigation systems (Sat Nav for short) can be a godsend for drivers, particularly if you are not entirely sure where you are going! However, it is not foolproof, and there are some limitations to the technology.

How Does Sat Nav Work?

If you are not familiar with Sat Nav, its inner workings can be a bit confusing.Sat Nav usually uses GPS, so that it can get data as to where you are on the road (provided that the road in question is in the database). The roads and points of interest (such as speed cameras, petrol stations and car parks) are given geographical co-ordinates. Through the database of roads, it can then offer directions regarding how to get to other roads in the database.

Some Sat Nav systems have voice prompts that verbally instruct you when to turn or go straight on. These can be safer than the systems that do not have this facility, as it means that you do not have continuously take your eyes off the road ahead to keep checking the screen, which means there is less scope for becoming distracted while using the system.

What Information Can it Give?

Directions are not the only way that Sat Nav systems can help you while driving. The more advanced Sat Nav systems have up-to-date information on traffic congestion, so you can use it to find out which traffic hotspots you should avoid on your journey. If the directions given involve traffic jams, the system may be able to suggest other routes that are not so densely packed. This is particularly useful if you are in a rush and need to get somewhere in a specific time frame.

As well as this, they may be able to offer parking advice by informing you whether car parks are full. Some systems even offer weather information, so you really can be prepared for all possibilities!

Other Uses

When you are not using the Sat Nav for driving purposes, some systems allow the screen can be used for displaying DVDs in the car, which can be a big relief if you are taking children on a long trip.

In some cases, they can be used for hands-free mobile activities, but you should never use these while driving as they are very distracting and can easily break your concentration.

Safety Concerns

Sat Nav has been blamed for causing road traffic accidents due to the distractions that it can cause. Glancing across at the screen - even for just a couple of seconds - can take your attention away from the road for long enough to miss hazards. This risk is even greater if you are using the Sat Nav system to update you on things like the weather or traffic queues. In this sense, they can be a hindrance as well as a help.

To counteract this risk, some systems do not allow you to use the features unless the vehicle is stationary. This often applies to passengers, as well as the driver.

Sat Nav systems are not always the best option to use, and the instructions that they give are not necessarily the most reliable ones. Because of this, they should be used with some degree of caution.

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