Car navigation system

Enemy of the road map industry – the first navigation device is 25 years old image: bosch/dpa

Today, anyone who needs to get from A to B rarely uses a road map. The navi in the car is no longer a luxury. For the robot cars of the future it will even be of central importance.

T he beginning of modern navigation in the car is reminiscent of good old seafaring. because in 1989, when the "navi" was launched in the car, a compass was still in charge. At the time, the car supplier bosch offered navi retrofit kits that used wheel sensors and a compass to feed their information into stored road maps.

Today, 25 years later, satellite positioning data (GPS) have long been guiding navis. And everything is changing again. The market for navigation devices, which has been booming for years, is in a state of upheaval: smartphones are tough competition.

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While boschs navi-pionier 1989 still cost about 7000 D-mark, nowadays the stiftung warentest gives mobile navigation devices to stick on the window for only 130 euro already the mark "good". In the mid-1990s, when GPS was already pointing the way, a navigation system from bosch still cost 4,000 marks. It was available as a standard extra in the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series flagships.

The post office was among the first major customers

At the time, professional vehicle fleets were among the first major customers for the technology developed by bosch in hildesheim, lower saxony. For example, the los angeles fire department or, in this country, the post office and rescue services. The development ran at that time in europe and japan parallel, bosch came then 1989 with the first navi for europe.

In the meantime, navigation is heading for a new era, and not just at bosch. Internet-enabled cell phones are one driver. For example, navigation giant garmin, which works for VW and daimler, emphasizes that "the navigation device business is under high pressure due to powerful smartphone applications."or to put it more bluntly: sales are falling.

Even tomtom, a major player in the industry, has been shrinking its business for years, at least in the area of portable navigation systems for mounting inside cars. Tomtom sees two reasons similar to garmin: on the one hand, permanently installed navis are increasingly becoming a central part of car cockpits and are becoming the standard there.

In the future, the navi will take on a whole new meaning: a robotic car can’t do without detailed maps. That’s why tomtom is already working in this field with bosch and volkswagen, for example. And auto supplier continental is partnering with nokia to develop high-precision maps for vehicles with autopilot functionality.

Prerequisite for the robot car

In the meantime, the navigation system is already merging with the so-called electronic horizon, which links cars with real-time information from individual local data clouds. Continental is cooperating with the IT giant IBM to prepare drivers for weather, accidents or traffic jams – much more than just navigation.

Continental executive board member helmut matschi calls this "a look into the future. This would allow the vehicle and driver to "adjust to the upcoming route in good time and actively reduce consumption".

From navi to sports wristwatch

Investment in navi software can usually only be justified by returns on original equipment business for carmakers, tomtom says. But at the same time, these expenditures also made it possible to further develop portable navigation systems "to an extent that could no longer be justified for a shrinking category. Ideally, this interlinking would lead to new, related products such as the sporty wristwatches.

25 years after its launch, the navi is coming of age. Like conti, pioneer bosch is also working on the electronic horizon, with which the navigation system will merge. The system would then be able to report on road conditions such as an icy bridge or the end of a traffic jam, optimize gearshifts with the help of 3D route profiles, warn of curves that are too narrow for the current speed, or guide the driver to the nearest or cheapest gas station if necessary.

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