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Apr 19, 2009

They have become the must-have automotive accessory of the 2000s. Helping motorists get to their destinations without the need for a bulky map and even guiding them past traffic snarls with ease, GPS systems are now almost as indispensible as car radios. But just how do these devices work and what makes them so valuable are questions that make those who have not taken the plunge wonder if they are worth the price of admission.

The basic functioning of a GPS device is to pinpoint a person in an exact spot on the globe. What consumers purchase is technically a Global Positioning System receiver, not a GPS per say. The GPS, the real GPS, is a constellation of more than two dozen satellites the United States military installed in an earth orbit. These satellites orbit the earth twice a day. The GPS receivers consumers can buy are able to locate at least four satellites at any given time and determine the distance to each. This process results in the GPS receiver being able to pinpoint its own location on the globe.

GPS systems can operate accurately in a number of conditions, but they are not infallible. For example, GPS is accurate regardless of weather conditions or the time of day. The signals, however, can be blocked by thick forests, canyon walls, large buildings and other similar obstacles. On average, GPS systems are accurate within 15 meters, but some newer machines have a margin of error that is even less.

GPS signals are technically free to receive, but it is through paid services that motorists get the information they need the most to navigate travel
. Thanks to the computerized backing services provide, GPS receivers can do more than pinpoint global position using the system of longitude, latitude and height. Extras that can come along with a GPS receiver device and a paid service include:

* Road map functioning – A GPS receiver can be used in conjunction with downloadable road maps to “walk” a motorist through a trip. Some devices will even determine the best route to take a driver from Point A to Point B and give turn-by-turn verbal directions along the way.
* Real-time traffic updates – Some services enable motorists to receive real-time traffic updates as they travel along a route. Intuitive services will help motorists avoid jams ahead and provide them alternative routes to take to avoid problems.
* Trip planning – When the GPS system is backed by a computerized service, motorists can receive invaluable information for trip planning. Not only will a GPS system in a car determine the best route for a motorist to take, but it can also calculate travel time, distance and other important factors.
* Landmark location – GPS services that provide maps and directions also sometimes offer landmark location in relation to a person’s position on the globe. Landmark information can be requested for such things as points of interest, restaurants, hotels and more.

A true GPS receiver enables people to determine exactly where in the world they are at any given time. When a receiver is supercharged thanks to a service, it can help motorists navigate travel with ease.


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