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What is an Auto Navigator?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Images By: Karramba Production, Anatoly Vartanov, Steve Mays, Aris Sanjaya
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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An auto navigator, also commonly referred to as a GPS, is a device that provides direction and navigational guidance while in a vehicle. These devices connect to GPS satellites, and are able to display directions to a specified location on an LCD screen, frequently a touch screen. An auto navigator may be built in to the vehicle, where it will commonly be called an auto navigation system, or it may be purchased as a separate, mobile electronic device. These are typically powered by the cigarette lighter outlet in the vehicle.

Though input methods and displays may differ, an auto navigator typically functions quite easily. Upon purchasing an auto navigator device, the user will first need to set a home location. Then, when he or she is ready to travel somewhere, the user will enter an address into the device. The navigator will connect to the GPS satellites and display turn-by-turn directions on the screen. If the user does not have an address, he or she may be able to select pre-loaded "points of interest," which generally include categories such as restaurants, shopping, entertainment, lodging, gas stations, and hospitals, among others.

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Generally, an auto navigator gives the user a number of display options; the device may display written directions, a map, or a combination of both. It may also display information such as the posted speed limit on the current road, as well as an estimated time of arrival based on the average speed that one is traveling. It will usually be able to adapt directions for a detour or missed turn, and will often be able to alert the user to traffic delays ahead of time, so the route can be recalculated.

Most auto navigators are designed with the capability to speak directions aloud. This is to avoid making the user constantly glance away from the road to look at the device. Some less expensive navigators will only give distance directions; for example, "Turn left in half a mile (one kilometer)." A more expensive auto navigator may use street names, such as "Turn right in half a mile onto Oak Street." If one misses a turn-off when using an auto navigator, it will be able to automatically recalculate a new route to get the driver back on track.

Once the driver has reached the destination, and is ready to go home, the auto navigator is able to automatically reverse the directions and find the best possible route to the preset "home" location. If necessary, additional stops may be added, either on the initial trip or the return trip. Handheld auto navigators may also be able to be used while hiking or bicycling. These are just a few of the convenient features found on these popular navigation devices.

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