Dear GPS Central,

I’ m writing to tell you of a few thoughts about my new Garmin Nuvi 350.

This morning on the way to my local bakery,I came upon a stop light that would not change.It was red (against me) and after waiting for five minutes I cautiously made a left turn against the red light.  Then I had a thought: I paged ‘BACK’ to the ‘WHERE TO’ command, selected ‘SPELL’ and typed in ‘POLICE’.  My Nuvi promptly displayed every local police station, closest first. When I selected one it showed the phone number. I called them and reported the malfunctioning red light. Then I had another thought: If in trouble, selecting ‘GO’ on that page would have guided me to the police station.

We all go on road trips from time to time, and a navigational aid is great to have.  But my most frequent use is when I’m in my own city, going to familiar places, but because of bad weather and/or night conditions I can’t read the street-signs …!! Without even setting it to route to an address, it displays all the cross-streets,even at night or during a blizzard, or when the street-signs are actually missing.

This last one … I don’t even believe myself. I live in a condominium where 60% of the parking is under the green park area surrounding it. So above me when I approach my parking spot I have 8 inches of reinforced concrete and above that twelve inches of granular-B and above that six inches of clay-loam and then … grass.  Yet I retain a satellite lock (with greatly reduced signal-strength) and I don’t lose it until I pass under the condominium building. While approaching my spot I turn through ¾ of a circle, and my Nuvi shows these changes in direction.  So it is NOT intelligent suspension as when you pass through a tunnel.

Is it a ‘toy’ or a valuable asset? The satellite network is compelling technology, costing many billions of dollars to implement. Yet I get the use of it, at no direct cost.Equally impressive is the equivalent of thousands of Perly’s Guides plus inter-city maps all over America, collected, scaled, compressed and delivered on this tiny device. And the icing on the cake is the text-to-speech and the 3-D (perspective) route display which makes it easy to see on a 3.5″ screen. So it’s an asset way more valuable than the purchase price. But, as I admitted to my wife, it sure is a great toy.

J. D. Kalpin, P. Eng