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Navigation: Convenient Isn’t Always Best

The Road Ahead Blog

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Navigation: Convenient Isn’t Always Best

nicolly moura

Smartphones are our “do everything, all the time” tools these days. We use them to connect with friends, find information, and entertain us in our downtime … and they’re phones as well! Many of us also use smartphones and tablets as navigation devices to help us get from place to place. After all, they’re convenient because they are always with you. But in a vehicle, looking at your phone while driving is not only illegal in most states, it’s dangerous and a major distraction. 

Car manufacturers spend millions of dollars on research to determine the best ways to safely operate systems in a vehicle, from the radio to windows and air conditioning. They decide if knobs, switches, buttons or touch screens are the best ways to interface with these devices, as well as where to place them for easy reach. They also look at the types of displays these devices use, where they should be located, and how much information they should show in order to aid the driver without distracting him or her with too much information. 

On the other hand, smartphones are designed to be portable and convenient. They pack as much information and capability as possible into a small, thin package that fits easily in a pocket. The touch screens use small buttons that require two hands to enter information. And while the screen sizes have gotten larger, there are so many icons and widgets that you need to concentrate to get the information you want. 

Portable, window-mount navigation systems are slightly better in that they are specifically designed for navigation, but they have many of the same drawbacks as smartphones: Cluttered screens and small buttons make inputting addresses a task that you have to focus on. 

Both of these devices also use internal speakers, which may not be heard clearly if the windows are down, the radio is playing or people in the car are talking. Also, where to mount them is an issue. Many states do not allow mounting devices on the windshield because that can create blind spots. And because the microphones are built into these devices, where they are placed will greatly affect the device’s ability to hear spoken directions. 

Navigation should not be treated as an app. It is a highly specialized driving aid, and it functions best when it’s integrated into the car. That’s why we recommend an installed system over a portable one. We’ve done our own research on which navigation systems follow the same guidelines the carmakers use when designing dash interiors, because we want you to be safe when using them. They all share these important features:

•    They work with the car’s audio system, either pausing or lowering the volume on the radio so spoken directions can be heard clearly.
•    They use specially designed microphones that we place in a way that limits road noise. 
•    The controls are simple to use and within easy reach, and the buttons are big enough to select options or type with one finger.
•    The displays offer multiple viewing options to make it easier to absorb the information. 
•    They don’t block other dash controls, obstruct your view or disable any of the systems in your vehicle. 

Your smartphone is great for non-driving applications, but when you’re behind the wheel, use navigation systems specially designed to enhance your driving experience and keep you and others safe on the road. Talk with one of our specialists about the system that’s right for you!