An important goal for makers of GPS navigation devices is to deliver maps and route guidance that will not be dangerous distractions for drivers.Spoken directions would seem to be a good solution, but telling people "Turn right at Baker Street" might just make people ignore the road ahead while straining to read street signs.
Garmin has taken the next step with its Real Directions feature, which gives route guidance using landmarks, much as people naturally do. Instead of saying "Turn left at Belvedere Avenue," six of Garmin's new models, ranging in price from about $200 to $380, say "Turn left at the stoplight," or "Turn left after the Starbucks."The screen shows a map with an icon for the landmark.
As it turned out, Real Directions, which is available for 52 cities in the United States, required the inclusion of many more landmarks than anticipated. In test drives, a team of employees from Garmin and from the Navteq mapping division of Nokia discovered that the direction of travel changed what needed to be said -- a landmark visible when approaching from the north might be hidden when driving from the south. Tests also found that drivers became puzzled if they were told to turn right when the landmark was on the left.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.