End of the road for sat-navs?

Car makers are rapidly embracing smartphone technology and the maps within them.
Car makers are rapidly embracing smartphone technology and the maps within them.

THE sat-nav suction cup mark on the windscreen and expensive built-in map guidance systems could soon be consigned to the motoring history books.

Better connected smartphones in cars could make the optional accessories extinct as drivers increasingly rely on the map features on their phones.

Car makers are rapidly embracing smartphone technology and the maps within them, and within the next two years motorists will have a vast choice of smartphone-compatible vehicles.

This week Mercedes unveiled a new hatchback that uses Apple's Siri voice command system to use the phone and social media, but it also put the device's built-in map in the heart of the car. The German car maker is also developing the same system based on Android technology. It should be ready by late this year.

Other car makers are certain to follow Mercedes' lead. According to China Car Times, Apple has just hired electronics experts with automotive experience. The belief is that Apple is working on a system for at least one car manufacturer, possibly more.

For now there is only small hurdle between smartphone maps and the extinction of proprietory navigation systems  - and it can be fixed in one download.

The standard maps used on phones are not certified for vehicle use because the street names on the display screens aren't big enough.

But as soon as this is rectified, which is likely within months, the clock may be ticking for $200 portable devices and $5000 map sytems on luxury cars.

When asked about the impact smartphones may have on in-car navigation devices, the head of Mercedes-Benz research and development, Professor Dr Thomas Weber, told Australian media at the Geneva motor show: "We believe these two parts [phone and navigation systems] will come closer together."

He said the only thing holding back smartphones from taking over portable or built-in navigation units was the size of the phone's screen and the driver's ability to see it.

To overcome this issue, all Mercedes A-Class models come with a screen that's almost as big as an iPad. But as the cost of display screen technology comes down, the devices will become standard equipment in more affordable cars, he said.

Topics:  drive motoring

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