Portable GPS device for cars launched

28 Mar 2003

The European end of US GPS (global positioning system) multinational Garmin has announced the launch in Ireland of a portable navigation system for cars – the Street Pilot 111.

GPS navigation systems for cars, though not common in Ireland, are already available “in-built” in a number of higher-end vehicles such as Mercedes, BMW and Lexus.

According to its Irish distributors, Merlin Motors Group, the Streetpilot will be selling itself as a more convenient, portable and relatively cheap (€1,650) alternative, aimed at “anyone who needs to find a particular address” or those wishing to find their way around while abroad.

The device, which requires no installation, sits on the car’s dashboard and works by plugging it into the cigar lighter.

Motorists can discover the route to the destination of their choice by typing in the desired address. Street Pilot then calculates a route and, using voice prompts, text and visual maps, guides you to where you want to go.

It will also find thousands of points of interest such as hotels, restaurants, hospitals and tourists sites.

Detailed street-level coverage is available in the metropolitan area of Dublin (from Malahide to Greystones), the metropolitan area of Belfast and the urban areas of Derry, Galway, Limerick, Cork and the ring of Kerry. All major roads and towns in Ireland are on the map, but street level detail is available only for these urban areas.

Garmin produces GPS systems for the marine industry for yachts and boats, hill-walkers and car systems and the system was most famously first used during the last Gulf war.

The mapping in Ireland for the system was produced by Mavtec in association with Ordnance Survey Ireland.

Speaking to siliconrepublic.com Anthony Farrell of Merlin Motor Group explained that Garmin sent a team over to Ireland with a “big van and a satellite top” to establish the system here.

The satellites are US government satellites and the Street Pilot acts a receiver so that the motorist’s location can be identified within five metres. “As you drive along you see exactly where you are on the map the whole time. You just type in the address and it guides you there,” he says.

Farrell, who has sold 29 of the devices since the beginning of this month, says he expects taxi drivers to be his main customers. “Since deregulation, there are almost 10,000 taxis in Dublin alone and from my point of view there is a whole new generation going into that business. So basically I’m launching it for businessmen who travel. Car hire companies are also interested in it for tourists and business travellers. What use is an expensive in-car system when your car is parked in the airport?”

The map on which the system works is updated once a year to account for changes made by the corporation to the streetscape and so on.

According to Farrell, the system is currently on test by An Post, the Gardai and ambulance services.

By Suzanne Byrne