CoPilot Live | Laptop 8 GPS Navigation System
GPS (Global Positioning System) technology is an amazing achievement that allows anyone to determine their position, whether they are on a boat, hiking on a trail, driving a car or even flying in an airplane. The system consists of 24 satellites flying just slightly over 20,000 kilometers in altitude. That means if you could to look up in the sky and see one, it would be moving relative to your stationary position, so they are not geosynchronous. This requires the GPS receiving system to constantly determine the nearest satellites to obtain the latest positioning information. GPS navigation is an exciting capability available to consumers and comes in the form of handheld units or as an option on many new vehicles being sold today. The navigation capability entice many potential customers with the idea that they will never get lost again when traveling in unfamiliar places. While GPS systems greatly reduce the probability of getting lost, they are not perfect when mated to road mapping software. Constant changes to roads and streets will require users to update their street database from time to time. For those who lack an integrated system in their vehicle, several options do exist. Many small portable units are available, but are typically limited in functionality and screen size/resolution. Today's vehicle navigation systems look great and blend nicely into the vehicle's interior, but can be costly and offer little flexibility compared to some portable systems. TravRoute has introduced their latest CoPilot Live | Laptop 8, a complete GPS system (Pod and software) designed to provide users with full mapping and POI (Points of Interest) navigation using a computer (sold separately).
The ALK North American mapping database includes over 7 million miles of roadway, including over 6 million street-level miles and over 738,000 highway miles. Over 100 million USA street addresses and more than 3 million POI (Points of Interest) including restaurants, hotels, service stations, golf courses, banks and sports arenas are available. There are county name descriptions for every location in the USA and users can enter any five digit zip code and get their location from the huge 42,500 list database.
The TravRoute CoPilot Live | Laptop 8 system relies on an external GPS antenna pod to provide data to the software. We recently took the system for a test drive on a seven hour road trip. Our Sony K23 Vaio laptop was instantly transformed into a powerful navigation system using the software provided in the package. Our CoPilot Live | Laptop 8 configuration was one of many offered by the company. A Bluetooth version and a software-only version for those who already have a compatible GPS receiver are also available. Our setup included the newly designed WAAS enabled USB GPS receiver. The antenna comes attached to a long 2 meter cord, providing plenty of cable length to the computer. A magnet on the bottom of the GPS pod allows the unit to be attached to the vehicle body, but also includes a suction cup if windshield mounting is preferred. Like all vehicle navigation systems, Alk Technologies urges drivers to watch the road and not to look at the computer screen while driving the vehicle.
The software must be registered within 15 days after installation in order for it to be used beyond this period. Both automatic as well as manual registration can be performed. Automatic registration requires a connection to the Internet along with the Product Key. Manual registration allows users to use a different computer using the Alk website. An email containing the Activation Code will be emailed to the user.
Our laptop immediately recognized the connection of the GPS pod. Once the software is launched, it will try and read the connected device and notify you if the GPS pod is not detected. The new GPS pod is better designed both physically and electrically than the earlier model. We noticed that the GPS pod no longer has a mini-DIN connector that had a tendency to work itself loose over time. A single connection from the USB connector to the pod is certainly a better design. The first time you launch CoPilot with the GPS receiver connected, you will be prompted by the software to enter your nearest city to help speed up the acquisition process. This works well and within a minute or two the GPS will begin tracking your position. If you happen to be away from a GPS signal (inside the office), you can still use the software to plan a trip.
The Planning Mode can be accessed at any time and allows the user to plan a trip, set Points of Interests (PIOs), Favorites and Contacts. CoPilot can also optimize the trip by reordering the stops to create a more efficient route. Once the trip is entered, the user can press the Run button and see a complete map of with turn-by-turn instructions including the round trip if selected.
The Guidance mode is for in-vehicle navigation and requires that the GPS receiver be attached to the computer. The CoPilot software will guide you along your way with a simple on-screen instructions, voice commands and updated real-time mapping. The main Guidance screen allows the operator (Not the driver) to zoom in and out, enable disable the microphone and speaker output. Users can simply enter their destination and the software will take you there. Preplanned trips can be recalled and edited if needed. POIs (Points of Interest) can be selected based on the distance from or near the route being taken and are displayed on the map.
The Live mode allows acces to real-time messaging and tracking of other CoPilot users. This requires access to the internet while you are driving, so not everyone will be able to use this feature. Unfortunately, we were not able to use this feature because we did not have internet access in our vehicle.
POI (Points of Interests) Alerts allow the user to select specific places such as airports, restaurants, gas stations, lodging and parks. The user can choose to hear male or female voice commands in either TTS or WAV formats. We preferred the WAV selection as it provided us with a much clearer sound with the heavy background noise in the vehicle. The Speed Warning feature lets you know when you have exceeded the maximum speed limit set by the user.
Even in the more rural parts of the country, the CoPilot Live | Laptop 8 software found small streets where one might be surprised to have any mapping information at all. The ability to jump between the Guidance mode and Planning mode also made it easy to look at a map of the area and then see the exact current position. Placing the cursor over any street shows the numeric address range and the street name. The pan and zoom functions are very user friendly making it simple to move anywhere on the map. Finding local restaurants and gas stations using the POIs were also handy during our trips.
The voice instructions are particularly useful to the driver who cannot look at the computer while operating the vehicle. The 2-mile, 1-mile and 300-feet warnings before a turn worked well, yet can be disabled through the Option menu if so desired. The software is also designed to respond to simple voice commands such as "Where am I". We encountered several one-way streets in San Francisco and the mapping software took this into account when determining our route. So whether you are planning a trip into a densly populated area or in rural America, this system should prove effective.
Alk Technologies offers free software patches that can be downloaded from the TravRoute website to fix current and future problems found in the application. The company continues to offer a full refund (minus shipping) within 30 days for any TravRoute product you purchase directly from them. This should give many people confidence that the company stands behind their product. We certainly do.
- Kevin Nakano
|Review - At a Glance|
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