Just how far has GPS come over the years?


Date: 27 July 2020

A hand is operating an in car GPS SATNav system

Can you still recall how to read a map? Have you ever been forced to use a compass after becoming lost between your start and end destination? Believe it or not, these situations were quite commonplace only a few decades ago.

One of the main changes which has taken place and served to reshape the world around us involves the almost ubiquitous presence of global positioning systems (GPS). Although we often take this technology for granted, it has existed for much longer than most of us are aware. Let's take an in-depth look at the history of GPS. You might be surprised at just how far we have come.

Humble Roots

The notion of vehicle tracking first took hold in 1981 with the invention of the "Electro Gyro-Cator" by Honda. Drivers could work out the location of their vehicle thanks to a small helium-filled gyroscope found within the device. In some ways, this type of navigation was similar to that employed by pilots during the Second World War. Of course, satellites were not yet widely in use then. This meant that translucent maps literally had to be placed on top of a screen. This process was cumbersome, but it signalled what was in store.

It was not until 1985 that a company known as Etak created the first all-digital navigation system. This device relied upon a series of four magnetic tapes which would correspond to specific areas of a region. As opposed to satellite tracking, Etak utilised a system known as dead reckoning to navigate between two different points. The only issue here is that the mapping information was notoriously inaccurate; causing drivers to become lost rather easily.

1990 and Beyond

The first true GPS system was introduced by Mazda in 1990. This was soon followed by GuideStar (manufactured by General Motors) in 1992. Although they were a leap forward, there were still understandable limitations. The memory capacity of these devices was rather small and the accuracy of the GPS mapping was lacking after a certain point. In other words, the car might not be where the unit claimed it was. It would not be until 1998 with the introduction of the Garmin StreetPilot that GPS navigation would come into its own.

These systems are now offered as standard features within many vehicles and companies such as Webfleet Solutions have capitalised upon their presence. In fact, the chances are your smartphone offers a similar application in the event that your on-board system fails. This brings up the final question. Where might GPS systems be headed in the future?

There is no doubt that these systems will continue to become even more accurate. The chances are high that the presence of live streaming data will also be able to provide real-time bird's eye views of a specific environment; a feature that is not present within some current iterations. Whether you are planning a holiday somewhere new or you need to navigate through an unfamiliar city, GPS has you covered.

Copyright 2020. Article was made possible by site supporter Alexa Coleman of ACFreelance

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