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New Services and Features Added to Car Navigation Systems (May 2, 2003)

car navigation
This car navigation system shows the driver how to avoid traffic jams.
Car navigation systems are advancing in leaps and bounds. Many recently unveiled models not only provide information on roads but also offer such added features as playing music and movies, locating nearby restaurants, and sending and receiving e-mail. These new services have been made possible by fitting the systems with hard disks that can store vast amounts of data.

Practical and Fun
Car navigation systems are continuing to improve on the basic function of providing road guidance to the driver. One company's system can determine which lane the car is in and alert the driver to change lanes when necessary - before making a turn, for example. On expressways in metropolitan areas like Tokyo, being in the wrong lane can mean missing your exit, so this feature can save drivers a great deal of time and frustration.

A system developed by another manufacturer can be used even when the driver has left the car. When the driver parks the car near the destination and gets out to walk the rest of the way, the car navigation system can be set to display the walking route on the screen of the driver's mobile phone. People who use this system have no excuse for getting lost!

Many manufacturers are striving to maximize the entertainment capabilities of their car navigation systems. Most of the systems include a DVD player, enabling the driver and passengers can enjoy movies with theater-quality sound and picture. One system allows up to 3,000 songs to be added onto a hard drive as part of an onboard jukebox, while another maker's navigation system uses Java technology to allow users to play video games on the navigation screen by connecting an auxiliary CD-ROM.

Help and Information at the Touch of a Button
In addition to electronics manufacturers, automakers are working to develop their own car navigation systems and are already outfitting some of their new cars with in-car information network devices. The information network developed by Toyota Motor is called G-BOOK. In this system, a wireless terminal in the car connects to a server at the information center, enabling the user to access a variety of content and services. This is becoming a standard function for car navigation systems on certain types of automobiles.

The G-BOOK interactive system puts various services at the disposal of drivers and passengers. The safety and security service alerts the service center if there is a problem with the car while it is being driven and also transmits the location of the vehicle, enabling help to be dispatched promptly. The "live navigation service" provides the lowdown on the area where the car is located, such as travel, entertainment, and eating out. The information service, meanwhile, provides the latest news, sports, showbiz, and weather updates. The communication service is used for sending and receiving e-mail, and the e-commerce service allows the user to purchase and pay for products and services online. Another feature is that subscribers can access the system even when they are away from the car via their computers or mobile phones.

Car navigation systems are shifting from being CD-based to using DVD technology or hard disks. It is estimated that some 2.4 million of these systems were sold in Japan in fiscal 2002 (April 2002-March 2003), up 10% over the previous fiscal year, and it is predicted that annual sales will rise to 3.2 million by fiscal 2005. While the market for auto accessories is generally a mature one, many believe that car navigation is an area that offers a great deal of growth potential. Recognition of this is leading automakers to work feverishly to develop new functions, and it appears that car navigation systems will continue to attract drivers looking to enhance their in-car experience.

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Related Web Sites
"G-BOOK" in Toyota Motor

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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