Innovative Car Navigation Products Abound

By Amy Gilroy On Jan 27 2003 - 8:00am

Based on the avalanche of new products shown at International CES this month, suppliers are launching a renewed effort to expand the fledgling, 30,000 unit-per-year, in-dash navigation market.

Many suppliers are introducing their first portable navigation products with car adapter kits, and some are striving to hit new low price points, to help jump-start the market.

Delphi displayed a navigation version of its XM SKYFi unit for the aftermarket. The portable GPS receiver resembles the SKYFi and is designed to nest in the same dash-mount cradle. It offers voice prompts and map-based turn-by-turn directions, as well as automatic rerouting. It is expected to ship this year at a price to be announced.

Royal is also taking the portable approach. It showed a dash-mountable, map-based, turn-by-turn, voice-prompt module with built-in Bluetooth and a CompactFlash slot for map information. It comes with a remote GPS module, which communicates with the map display by Bluetooth. This allows more flexibility in mounting the GPS antenna, which requires a line-of-sight path to the satellites to achieve a reading, said Royal. Users download TeleAtlas maps from their PC to a CF card for viewing on a 5-inch screen. The system uses Pharos software. It is expected to ship early in the third quarter at an estimated price of $599, including software, maps, CF card and accessories.

Kenwood showed a prototype car interface for a Pocket PC handheld that converts the unit to a true GPS system with dead reckoning. The interface includes a docking station with a remote black box for housing a GPS antenna, speed-sensing wires and a microprocessor. The unit turns a PDA into a turn-by-turn, map-based system, allowing users to input new destinations as they drive, said Kenwood. The company hopes to offer the system in the future at a price between $500 and $800.

Kenwood expects to ship in the second quarter a new KNA-DV3100 in-dash DVD navigation unit (without screen) which offers voice-prompt, turn-by turn-directions. It can connect to any screen for map-based directions and is expected to carry a suggested retail price of $1,500.

From Japan, Kenwood showed a prototype of an "aerial-view" navigation system developed in conjunction with Denso. The unit provides a sky view of one's destination with zoom in and out. It has a 16GB hard drive and also accepts flash memory music downloads. No delivery information was available.

Pioneer demonstrated its Air Navi system, also currently available in Japan for the equivalent of approximately $2,000. The telematics system allows live communication and accident notification, as well as e-mail and direct "chat" with other owners of an Air Navi system, in addition to offering map-based directions. It will also allow other Air Navi owners to "see" where you are on a map, if you choose to share locations. The system requires a digital cellular network connection, and Pioneer said it is currently devising a U.S. strategy for the product.

Pioneer also added touch-screen capability to its U.S. navigation products this year in the AVIC-80DVD.

Alpine demonstrated real-time traffic updates through XM Satellite Radio, using Navtech maps and two traffic information services, which are presently live in Chicago. In addition, the company launched a new "Nav-in-a-box" pre-packaged system for $2,000. The TME-580 includes an NVE-N852A DVD-based PowerNav system with 5.8-inch monitor, which will ship this spring.

Sony displayed a car cradle for future Sony CLIE PDAs. When the PDA is inserted in the cradle, the icons switch to a larger size for easy touch-screen operation. The system, which plugs into a cigarette lighter, provides map-based and voice-prompt turn-by-turn directions. It also reads aloud e-mail and appointment reminders. It connects directly to most Sony head units and to other car radios via a cassette adapter to deliver audio through the car audio system. It will also play back MP3s stored in the CLIE. The Car CLIE cradle is expected to ship in May at an estimated price of $300.

Sanyo showed at CES, a portable, self-contained combination DVD video and navigation system that is designed to sit in a cradle on the dash and plug into the cigarette lighter. It features map-based, turn-by-turn and voice-prompt directions and a 7-inch widescreen. A TV tuner will be offered either as an option or built into the expected price of under $2,000. Shipping is expected in the second quarter.

Finally Navman showed a new portable, dash-mountable solution. Called the iCN 630, it uses an Intel XScale processor and has a Secure Digital (SD) slot for transferring maps from a PC. It comes with a 3.8-inch VGA TFT color display, 64MB of RAM and 64MB of flash memory for storing maps. It ships with a car adapter kit and carries a suggested price of $999.

Also from Navman is one of the first Bluetooth GPS antennas. Called the GPS 4400, it will allow a Pocket PC handheld or laptop to act as a navigation unit without any wiring connections. It will carry a retail price of $499.

On the handheld front, Garmin debuted the first Palm-based PDA with built-in GPS navigation. Called the iQue 3600, it has an antenna, which flips up from behind the screen and includes an MP3 player at $750 with an optional car kit at $79.95.

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