Global Positioning System (GPS): More Consumer Usage

(GPS expected to advance into consumer mainstream)

Regular people need to get ready, too!

GPS industry says it's headed in the right direction

  • The most common phrases uttered in a car this year, according to a recent insurance company survey, were "Are we there yet," "Do you know where you are going?" and "You missed the turn."
  • That's probably comforting news to the makers and sellers of GPS units who believe this will propel their technology further into the consumer mainstream.
  • Global positioning systems have doubled in sales as average prices have dropped during the past four years since 2001.
  • The latest, and top-of-the line, versions offer real-time traffic information, weather updates and new radio channels.
  • GPS isn't just GPS anymore. Traffic is the new frontier.
  • Surveys show traffic information is the most desired to be sought from GPS units, and several products have been launched in recent months, beamed via satellite or FM radio waves.
  • The updates warn drivers of road closures, accidents and other problems and offer alternative routes before they get stuck behind them.
  • The makers and sellers say demand for the service by consumers, coupled with the demand for new gadgetry in general, may provide a push for the newly loaded GPS units, which cost about $1,000 and come with a monthly fee.
  • The Consumer Electronics Association reports that 2004 factory-to-dealer sales of all kinds of electronic devices totaled $113 billion in 2004 and are expected to rise nine percent to $123 billion this year.
  • Possibly propelling sales of GPS units and all consumer electronics more are prices, which have come down as more manufacturers mass-produce units and compete for buyers, according to makers and sellers of GPS units, who say that there already are hundreds of thousands of them used in U.S. cars.
  • Factory sales of GPS units, both the hand-held and automobile kind, are projected to grow to 738,000 this year from 162,000 units in 2001.
  • The average price, meanwhile, has dropped to $473 from $888 during that span of time.
  • Like radios, cassette players and compact disk players, GPS may eventually become almost standard in cars; especially, as their popularity rises with positive word of mouth from users.
  • One man was recently in the market for his second GPS unit. He wanted one for his car that "has a voice interface" or one that speaks directions instead of just listing them on the screen.
  • The GPS era came to the United States about seven years ago, but manufacturers have been trying to make them more valuable to travelers, and are now focusing on commuters who already know where they are going but want extra help or extra entertainment for the long drives.
  • One company, for example, now offers one package with the traffic feature and XM Radio.
  • Partnering is becoming a good way for electronic makers and service providers like XM, with more than five million subscribers, to introduce their products to more customers and, at times, at a bundled discount.
  • Other features are in the works for the GPS makers; such as, reminders from the auto shop for maintenance.
  • The latest GPS units come with the receiver for radio and traffic built in, and others can be hooked up to a separate antenna to get the extras. The monthly fees, on top of the $1,000 or so purchase price for the latest and most loaded auto system, range from about $10 a month to about $17.

    There are several manufactures; such as, Garmin, Cobra Electronics Corp. and TomTom Inc.

  • The traffic information is beamed from suppliers that collect it from a series of roadside sensors, government sources, airplanes, and other sources.
  • One such supplier,, expects the service to be available to more than 50 metro areas by the end of next year and to 100 million drivers, 64 million of whom commute by car daily.
  • For those who are not ready to buy a GPS system, there are also companies that will rent GPS devices.
  • Most of the big rental car companies offer the service for about $10 a day. Avis Rent A Car System added the traffic feature to its Motorola Inc. GPS units in August, 2005.
Excerpts from The Baltimore Sun, December 9, 2005.

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