The GPS – a Revolution for Cars

The Global Positioning System, more commonly known as GPS, has revolutionized the transportation industry since its conception in 1973. This space-based navigation system created and supported by the US Department of Defense pinpoints the exact location and time of any person in possession of a GPS receiver. This technology is designed to work in any type of weather and from any location on Earth. GPS devices deliver critical navigational resources to civil, commercial and military people all over the world. GPS systems can be found in a number of different technological devices including smartphones, cars, planes, and handheld systems. This integration of a portable navigation system has changed the way navigation is looked at in today’s society and offers continual advancements in the area of transportation accuracy.

Navigation History – Prior to the GPS

In today’s society, GPS systems are relied on heavily to aid with navigation. Before the existence of these devices, however, people were forced to trust in natural resources and different man made tools to help guide their way. The first settlers navigated by using the landscape and by leaving trails of stones to be followed. In the 18th century, Mariners relied upon celestial observations to determine their latitude and longitude coordinates. Explorers such as Columbus and Magellan also used quadrants, hour glass tools, and traverse boards in their travels. The development of tools such as the chronometer and the Sextant provided precise time and positioning measurements of the planets and stars in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the 1930’s, electronic navigation through radio beacons brought about the capabilities of all-weather, increased accuracy and easy use of navigational systems. Throughout World War II, the navigational system known as the Long Range Aid to Navigation (LORAN) provided troops with positions through the timing of signals received from a transmitter station. The 1960’s brought about the Omega system which offered the first ever worldwide electronic navigation. The US Navy developed a system known as TRANSIT in 1967, which delivered a more precise position to naval ships through the use of multiple operational satellites that measured Doppler signals.

How GPS Devices Came About

GPS technology was developed by the United States Department of Defense in the late 1960’s. It wasn’t until 1973 that the GPS project was created to surpass the limitation held by previous navigational techniques. In 1978 the first Block-1 satellite to have the GPS prototype was launched. Currently there are twenty-four satellites that rotate the Earth’s atmosphere every twelve hours. These satellites are able to pinpoint the exact time and location of mobile GPS systems. GPS segments can be separated into three categories. The first known as the space segment has 28 satellites, each orbiting 11,000 miles above the Earth. The second is the user segment which consists of portable receivers, and the third is the control segment which involves ground stations responsible for making sure the satellites are functioning properly. GPS navigation has changed the way people get from place to place, and one of the most prominent uses is the inclusion of these systems in automobiles. A man named Steven Lobbezoo is said to have created the first commercial satellite navigation system for cars. The system was referred to as “Homer,” named after a special device used in a James Bond movie. It was produced in Berlin and presented at the Hannover fair in Germany in 1985. Since then, a number of companies have incorporated the GPS system into their vehicles including Honda, Mitsubishi and Oldsmobile. However, improved and more accurate GPS signals weren’t made available to civilians in the US until the year 2000. Today, this technology is widely recognized, and consumers can choose to have a GPS based vehicle navigation system included in almost all new vehicles.

How a GPS Device Works

The Global Positioning System works by using a combination of orbiting satellites, ground receivers, and signals to determine someone’s location. A GPS receiver located on the ground reads messages from the satellite signals to calculate time and distance. The location of the satellite is then combined with these distances to determine the exact position of the functioning GPS system. Drivers can choose to carry around a portable GPS system, or they have the option of having the computer system directly installed within their cars. Either way, the user must input coordinates of where they would like to go. The computer system then uses the GPS technology to determine the starting and ending point for the trip and brings up the correct maps and turn by turn directions for the traveler. The GPS can also aid in emergency situations, providing a signal that law enforcement can read to determine the vehicle’s current location. Traditionally, four satellites are required for proper operation however, in certain situations fewer satellites can be used to determine location.

How the GPS is Used Today

GPS navigation is used for a multitude of things in today’s world. GPS guided agricultural equipment is often used in the application of fertilizer and in determining the location of weed, disease and insect infestations in crops. Mapping and survey companies also apply GPS navigation for natural resource management, including assessing the damage from natural disasters. In addition, emergency response vehicles use GPS to locate the position of vehicles that have been in accidents. GPS is also used on the sea for search and rescue operations and management of fleets. Recreational activities that use GPS navigation include geocaching, hiking, hunting and fishing. Many golf centers have included GPS systems into their carts to use for tracking and measuring the distance from the cart to the center of the greens. GPS in relation to air travel is currently used for en-route navigation in airplanes and helicopters. Airplanes specifically rely heavily on GPS navigation in their air-collision avoidance systems, providing protection for passengers during travel. The inclusion of GPS in cars has provided great directional help for drivers all over the country. Portable GPS devices can be purchased and used in any vehicle, but most new vehicles have the option to add a functioning GPS device right into the dashboard, removing the hassle of bringing the device along when traveling.

GPS Devices

Currently there are a wide variety of retailers that offer portable, pocket and personal navigation products. Consumers can choose from hand-held, sport or outdoor receivers that would best suite their navigational needs. Some of the top manufacturers of GPS devices include Garmin, Tom-tom and Magellan. One of the most popular GPS devices presently comes in the form of smartphone applications. Top wireless companies including Verizon and AT&T offer GPS services on a number of phones giving the consumer their own personal navigation assistant. The downfall to this type of GPS technology is that the signal won’t function when out of range from a cell phone tower. Additionally, laptops and computers can also be used as GPS devices with the appropriate software. Different types of GPS devices are sold at varying price points. It’s important to do your research and choose the device that will best suit your needs. The use of personal navigation devices in cars has revolutionized the way people look at travel. With the ability to use Google maps or Garmin technology right from the comfort of your own vehicle, drivers can enjoy the scenery and driving experience without worrying about losing their way.