Hyundai Elantra nav aI went to the launch of Hyundai’s new Elantra a while ago, held at a golf resort in the north-east of Tasmania, miles from anywhere. It was there that I learned that satellite navigation is not being fitted in any model in the range, not even the $30,000 one. This seemed weird.

The Hyundai folk explained that instead of navigation they had equipped the Elantra with Apple Car Play. It’s Apple software operated by a free app that transfers your phone’s stuff to the screen in the car. So as well as all the music you have on your phone you can access your photos and videos, texts and emails. You can even make phone calls. It’s the navigation on the phone that provides navigation for the car. So who needs an embedded navigation system?

And the advantage is that mapping on your phone is continually updated, while embedded systems tend to give you mapping that’s (sometimes) correct at the time of purchase but goes out of date as time goes by. If you live in a rapidly expanding suburb or town, or if you’re even just visiting one, this can become very frustrating.

I asked if this was the way navigation was going to go in the not too distant future. Now that everyone has a smart phone (well, anyone without one is statistically insignificant anyway) will car makers stop fitting navigation and simply run apps like this? The Hyundai people made it pretty clear that they were using the Elantra to test the waters. They want to see how car buyers react.

It will all make perfect sense as long as the car buyer involved has an iPhone, although Android has an equivalent app somewhere. Fortunately the guy I was sharing a car with did have an iPhone so he plugged it in to the Elantra’s system (it requires hard wiring into a USB port) and called up the mapping.

At which point we discovered the weakness of the idea. There was no phone coverage at the lonely golf course up there in the wilds of Tassie so all we got on the screen was a little dot at centre-screen in the middle of a tight grid of horizontal and vertical lines. So your navigation will only work in built-up areas or major freeways, like the Hume, and when you enter a blackspot, nada. And this makes me think. The great bulk of this big country of ours has no mobile coverage whatsoever. Nor will it ever get it unless there’s a radical development in mobile technology.

If you take you four-wheel-drive along the Tanami track from Alice Springs to Halls Creek a conventional satellite navigation system will be with you all the way. You’ll know how far it is to Rabbit Flat, and then to the turn-off for Wolf Creek. But with Apple Car Play you’ll have nothing at all. And it’s not just out in the desert. Whether you’re driving to Broken Hill, Alice Springs or Perth it will be the same thing, as it will over most of this wide brown land. And I can’t see phone coverage getting out there to where the crows fly backwards anytime soon.

Published July 2016


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