Tech Time: GPS Beats Asking for Directions

We now have access to turn by turn directions on Jamaica’s streets. So, whether you are going on a field trip across the island or looking for the nearest ATM, GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation will save time and increase your cool coefficient.

In practical terms, you get a little device with a touch screen, affix it your vehicle with a suction cup and enter your destination BEFORE you drive off. And voila! The screen shows a map with your route and a pleasant voice tells you exactly where to go from there.

Taking it a step further, you can search for restaurants, schools, gas stations, hospitals or other locations based on the proximity to where you stand. Get reviews, opening hours and other information while sitting in your car with just the touch of a button.

It works thanks to the efforts of The Mona Geoinformatics Institute. The institute mapped the island and all its major roadways, and by making the maps available to the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) the public now has access through Garmin devices. The Garmin GPS Units start at about $26,000 with the map preloaded. JAA can also load the map to your own Garmin device or appropriate mobile phone. There is no monthly subscription charge.
JAA Sales Manager Oliver Sherman noted that map is continuously updated to accommodate for new roads and traffic changes. But updates cost approximately US$30 three months after the initial purchase. The service has garnered significant interest from tourism service providers, companies and embassies with expatriates, real estate investors, delivery service providers and taxi drivers, in addition to gadget lovers.

“The units have a lot of features,” Sherman added. Enhanced features include local points of interest, vehicle tracking (read more about this on the blog), route plotting based on shortest time versus shortest route settings, fuel usage monitoring and management. Of course, such features have great practical applications. But they can be fun too. A group of friends can pick a location (by points of interest or even by geographical coordinates) and challenge each other to see who can reach to the destination fastest or for less money.

Take the challenge overseas with downloadable maps at North America, Europe and other territories are represented. Additional maps cost between US$10 and US$100 depending on the territory. So there is no need to rent an expensive car with onboard navigation, just use the same unit purchased in Jamaica.

But does it really work? Yes. I had some issues with the new MoBay road and a bridge in Bog Walk, but generally, I was impressed with the routings. When I intentionally diverted from the suggested routes, the device figured out new routes immediately. Then I tested the system by putting in multiple locations and again, I was impressed. I maneuvered the maze that is downtown Kingston with ease. I shall never be lost again. Finally, when I got bored of the vehicle on the screen and the voice, I downloaded new ones, keeping things fresh.

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