Road trips once involved a folding map or atlas. I vividly remember riding around with a shotgun on my family’s annual trip to St. Augustine, Florida, and my dad simultaneously driving and trying to find an exit on a road map. When he couldn’t find it—while driving our 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis faux wood-panel station wagon at 80 mph—he would hand the card to me, nine. My navigational skills in the 1990s went as far as the straight half-mile walk from Sagamore Hills Elementary School to my grandmother’s house. Needless to say, we were both quite frustrated by this.
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw the advent of Mapquest and the printing of turn-by-turn directions. It was a hell of an improvement, but it still meant constantly going off the road and down to the 8.5″ by 11.5″ sheet that hopefully the printer’s toner level made readable .
Mapquest didn’t account for traffic delays, of course.
Then came the stationary GPS devices of the 2000s, which were a new level of convenience, but also left drivers in the gutter if they didn’t update the gadgets regularly. GPS trackers also performed much worse than smartphones with a signal in rural areas.
At the very least, Garmin and TomTom have paved the way for electronic driver guidance and at or near eye level.
Cars of recent years have built-in navigation systems in their infotainment centers. And while those work, the average factory-built dash navigation system isn’t as user-friendly, responsive to traffic, or accurate as the aforementioned smartphone apps.
Any driver with a newer car model compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto should use them. This interface is much easier to use than standard car systems and Apple and Android have built-in functionality to limit what drivers can do on this dash screen while driving.
Audio for turn-based plays on car audio systems and drivers can quite easily switch between radio, music apps, podcast apps and calls. Texting is also completely hands-free in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as these systems read texts. They do not display the writing in the texts.
If a driver is very concerned that their vehicle doesn’t have Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or even a factory built-in system, they can easily outfit their car to be hands-free. Purchasing a simple AC vent cell phone holder (or one that can suck on the windshield) allows the driver to mount their phone in a near eye-level position, without having to hold it.
If they want phone audio to play through a car’s audio system, there are several adapters that can plug into cigarette lighters and USB ports and can transmit on an FM channel and play on loudspeakers. car speakers. The driver would then simply set their phone to Bluetooth and connect to that adapter or device.
These are the changes I made when the Georgia Hands-Free Act of 2018 went into effect. I drove two older cars back then and still use one today. This 2010 SUV still has both a phone holder and a Bluetooth-FM adapter. It works almost seamlessly.
The trick to using this technology is to make as many adjustments as possible before a car is in motion. Drivers should check detailed directions in, for example, Google Maps and make sure they have an idea of where the ‘bots’ are sending them. Drivers should also make Bluetooth adjustments and settings before the trip. Doing those who move is dangerous and illegal.
And, before setting the car in motion, open the WSB Triple Team Traffic Alerts app. This allows information from our team of experts in our 24/7 Traffic Center to reach drivers automatically. The reports we record for major incidents automatically play over other sounds on a phone, when a driver approaches a major problem. We also have a great map with Apple Maps or Google Maps traffic data, with our traffic incidents overlaid, which drivers can easily use to plot their routes or just see why they’re stuck.
Checking our app and letting it work is legal.
Planning family trips over the holidays, as many drivers reading this as we go to press are finishing their own, has become much easier with these technological advancements. Even though smart devices are far more entertaining, the convenience they offer in both navigation and traffic information lightens the load. And having that information in an audible, eye-level, user-friendly form makes navigation much safer than it was 20 years ago.
But the responsibility that the conduct requires does not fall on Big Tech. It is the driver’s responsibility to have ownership of their ride and be aware of their surroundings. It’s the not-so-secret sauce for safe travel.
Doug Turnbull, the PM Drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also has hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.
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