By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
For years, suppliers blamed limited demand for in-car navigation on high prices and the lack of a killer application that would extend it beyond simple point-to-point navigating. But the market is finally resolving these stumbling blocks, and sales are starting to skyrocket.
Pioneer estimates the industry shipped 60,000 in-car units from January to September 2004, representing a 115 percent increase over the year prior. It expects another 100 percent-plus growth in 2005.
Prices of transportable products have been dropping since last year, so that systems are now available for under $500. And with the launch of XM NavTraffic in new Alpine and Pioneer systems, the industry now has a nationwide system for helping commuters avoid traffic.
NavTraffic delivers traffic incident updates via the XM satellite radio network and works with a navigation system to show these incidents as icons on a route map.
Not surprisingly, both Alpine and Pioneer say that NavTraffic will further boost the market once consumer awareness increases.
Michael Townsen, Pioneer marketing VP, said, “As an industry, we have to educate consumers about what the new navigation systems will do for them. It's not just about getting from point A to point B, but how to reroute around traffic and locate points of interest like banks and gas stations and restaurants. It's about making your life easier in the vehicle and to regain the freedom you've lost sitting in traffic.”
The aim, said sales VP Stephen Witt, is “to provide navigation that is more of a day to day, real-world value to the drivers.”
Alpine's new RoadLink (as named pending trademark approval) is the only product that will offer automatic rerouting around an incident, when used with a NavTraffic module, says the company. If the driver is approaching a fork in the road, and the NavTraffic system indicates an accident ahead on the right, then the system would automatically route him to the left, Alpine said.
Both the Alpine and Pioneer navigation systems allow users to touch a screen to see a detailed traffic events list that can be sorted by distance from the driver. The systems also display traffic flow by different colors. On the Pioneer unit, green indicates traffic moving 40 mph and above, yellow from 20 to 40 mph, and red at less than 20 mph. Additional icons represent scheduled incidents such as road construction and road closures.
Alpine's new RoadLink is a stand-alone unit, requiring a separate screen. It has some streamlined features, such as an automatic “home” button that you press for directions home from your current location. Alpine says the DVD-based unit is 10 times faster than the previous Alpine models. It also has a PCMCIA slot for data transfer at a suggested list price of $1,500. A NavTraffic module will be sold separately.
Pioneer's new AVIC-N2 is an update to the company's AVIC-N1 that can play DVDs while navigating. With an optional NavTraffic receiver, the AVIC-N2 shows traffic incidents on a 6.5-inch motorized touch screen. The system also suggests alternate routes but does not automatically reroute.
The AVIC-N2 is a DIN-sized DVD/CD/MP3 player with route guidance for the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, and Canada. It has 7.5MB of flash memory to store maps so that users can play a DVD or CD while navigating. The dual-zone unit also has a mode for vehicle dynamics performance gauges, which may now be viewed with a choice of four different skins. Pricing for the AVIC-N2 will be announced at CES.
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