GPS - a Godsend

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By Robert Harland


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I'M ON a family visit to England and I am driving to many parts of the country in a Ford Focus which we hired from Hertz. It's a brilliant car - I might get one myself when I get home. What is making our visit so easy is the Hertz NeverLost GPS system.

GPS (global positioning system), or 'SatNav' (satellite navigation) as it's called in England, has been around for some time, but it's only when you start using it one realizes just how brilliant it really is. You really do never get lost with this device from Hertz.

GPS is a network of satellites that orbit the earth at fixed points above the planet and beam down signals to anyone on earth with a GPS receiver like the NeverLost device. These signals carry a time code and geographical data point that allows the user to pinpoint their exact position, speed and time anywhere on the planet.


We can all thank the Cold War for GPS. It was originally designed for military and intelligence applications the U.S. Department of Defense at a cost of $12 billion in the 1960s, with inspiration coming from the launch of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik in 1957.

When Soviet Union jet fighters shot down a Korean passenger jet - flight 007 - in 1983, the Reagan Administration decided to open up GPS for civilian applications so that aircraft, shipping and transport the world over could fix their positions and avoid straying into restricted foreign territory.

Apart from route finding for drivers, GPS is used for dozens of other navigation applications, map-making, earthquake research, climate studies and an outdoor treasure-hunting game known as geocaching.

The NeverLost device is powered by the Magellan GPS system. Hertz says it's user-friendly - and I can vouch for that. It really is very simple. Just punch in the post code or address and the machine does the rest. You get a moving color visual directions on a map on the screen plus audio prompts e.g. "after 500 yards turn right."

It even warns you when there's a speed camera or a toll road ahead.

For our trip to England, our NeverLost has the street maps for every city in the country as well as rural lanes and byways. As we are staying in a very rural part of the country it has not lost a beat when it comes to getting us to our destinations.

One can choose the language too - alas, there's no Tagalog yet but I think most drivers can get by with English, Spanish, Dutch, French, Italian, Japanese or German.

Anyone hiring car for a holiday is well advised to also rent a GPS system. We always choose Hertz for our car hire. Over the years they've proven to be the most reliable and their NeverLost navigation system has transformed our holidays.

With GPS, there's no more fumbling with maps, hunting for street signs or having to ask people for directions.

What a pity we didn't have GPS years ago when I had to travel the length and breadth of the country mounting art exhibitions at universities, colleges and schools. I recall the many times I got lost in some remote spots. But, with GPS, never again. It's a real Godsend.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 23, 2014.


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