It seems incredible now, but the first time I used a production sat-nav system in anger was back in 1998 to steer myself in a Mk4 Golf 1.8T from London to Comrie in Scotland. Of course, I could easily estimate the route to Edinburgh, but the navigation guided me right to the car park of the hotel I was looking for.
One thing that is burnt on my memory is the way the nav system triumphantly announced ‘you have arrived’ as I got to the hotel. Back then, in the day before mass-internet usage, the VW’s sat-nav system was a really stunning piece of technology.
Yesterday, I experienced what is probably the ultimate expression of satellite-navigation technology in the form of Audi’s fully-integrated, internet connected, mapping. I was surprised just how much difference it made to me when piloting the Audi A8 Hybrid and A6 Allroad around unfamiliar territory.
The Audi system uses a 3G connection to overlay Google Earth and Google Street view images onto the mapping. For reasons I can’t quite decipher, seeing the route from a balloonists view made it much easier for me to figure out, for example, which slip road to take on the criss-crossing motorways around Ingolstadt.
Being able to zoom out and see the road ahead - the way it winds along and the terrain through which it is running - also seemed to make a big difference to my progress. It gives you a glimpse of what to expect, which delivers a significant confidence boost on a road you’ve never travelled before. The fact that this Audi system can also colour code the route to deliver information on traffic speed and hold-ups is the icing on the Aprikosenkuchen.