No matter how well a chauffeur knows an area and checks directions before a run, situations can always arise which cause directional plans to go astray. Now, instead of using a map book to solve such problems, chauffeurs have a futuristic alternative...the Etak Navigator.
With the Navigator, a driver has a small display screen which is mounted on a flexible stalk near the dash board. On the screen is a map showing streets, highways, and geographic landmarks. EtakMaps, as they are called, are stored on cassette tapes, and each map covers an area approximately twice the size of a conventional paper map. An Etak user can define the capability of their system by selecting appropriate software cassettes.
The location of the vehicle appears as a small triangle in the center of the screen. The Navigator claims to plot the position of a vehicle to an accuracy of within fifty feet. As the vehicle moves, the arrow on the screen remains in the same position but a sophisticated tracking system moves the map across the screen so that the Navigator continues to display the vehicle’s correct position.
The driver can choose specific views of a car’s position or surroundings. At the touch of a button, you can zoom in for a detailed close-up of your position, with all streets shown and labeled. Or you can zoom-out for a less detailed overview of major streets. The widest zoom level shows an entire metropolitan area.
Not only does a Navigator display the location of a vehicle, the system can also indicate a street address, intersection, or other landmark. By using buttons on a Navigator’s display unit, a driver can enter a destination which will then appear on the screen as a small flashing star. This allows a driver to plot a correct route to the destination, or choose an alternate route in the event of traffic or other delays. Displayed at the top of the screen is the line-of-sight distance from the vehicle to the destination.
The Navigator consists of four basic components, none of which require modification to the vehicle. Installation is similar to the installation of aftermarket audio systems or cruise controls, and takes two to three hours.
Custom-designed navigational sensors are mounted near the wheels, and an electronic compass is installed in the headlights or rear window. The electronics package, containing the computer, display drivers, and the tape interface, is placed in the trunk. The tape drive unit is mounted anywhere in the driver’s compartment...under the seat, under the dashboard, or in the glove compartment.
Etak intends to provide owners of the Navigator with ever-expanding capabilities by taking advantage of the system’s flexibility. This includes the development of some specialized cassettes which could be of interest to limousine operators. A proposed Restaurant Guide, for example, could conceivably show the locations of restaurants in an area, and provide descriptive information about each of them. Another possible specialty cassette is expected to include locations and descriptions of regional points of interest, thus allowing any chauffeur to conduct a scenic tour.
With all of its capabilities, the Navigator is one of the limousine industry’s most innovative and useful accessories. Navigators are available in two models...one with a four and a half inch screen and the other with a seven inch screen. Both models are priced under $2000. EtakMaps are priced at $35. Etak systems will be widely available through automotive accessory retailers.