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A few more notes from my recent road trip. I used my iPhone for navigation, mostly using Navigon for my directions. But I wound up switching to the TomTom program near the end of the trip.

Navigon worked pretty well, and it’s my default navigation program. Here in Michigan, we have boulevard, or “Michigan” left turns on many major roads. Navigon handles them just fine, but TomTom seems to think they are highway exists and warns you to steer clear of them. Every one of them. Even though they’re often spaced a quarter-mile apart or less. The first couple of times I wanted to punch the phone! So for the most part, I avoid the TomTom program, especially in town.

However, I test these programs out on known routes to see what they get wrong. Navigon, for the past several years, has a very bad direction on my way to work that, if followed, would send you off in the exact opposite direction down the freeway. I’ve gone to the Navigon site and put in corrections several times now, but it doesn’t seem to matter. So I don’t know if they pay any attention to those or not.

Still, for the most part, it’s pretty reliable. So why did I switch to TomTom on the way home?

It seems that every time I stopped the car for gas, lunch, a break, etc., Navigon got lost, trying to send me all over creation rather than just get me back on the freeway. Fortunately, I knew which way I needed to head out on the road (I really only need the routing for when I get near my destinations or if I get forced off the highway by some issue) so it wasn’t a big deal. But it was annoying.

The final straw was when it wigged out when we were just going straight down the road.  I hadn’t even stopped, and suddenly Navigon was spinning the map around, telling me to take all sort of crazy turns, and at one point even telling me I had hit a dead end. The odd part of it was that the whole time, the indicator of where I was still showed me on the freeway, moving in the right direction! So why it wanted me performing all those other maneuvers I don’t know.

It was at that point I decided to give TomTom a try. The program performed well, steering us around some jammed-up construction, and didn’t wig out. To be fair, Navigon also steered us around some construction (125 miles away!),  but it also tried to take me off a toll road into the boonies at one point. I just got tired of all the crazy directions Navigon was spewing out.

This was before the recent spate of updates from Navigon (but with their new maps) so maybe the problem is cured. I’m going to give it another go on some upcoming trips.

One thing I’d like to see done better in both programs is the way they handle some options. For example, both programs allow you to avoid or allow freeways. I’d like to “prefer” them (to avoid some of the directions I sometimes get from both programs that take you off the freeway for a couple of miles because it’s slightly shorter).

I’d also like a more fine-grained approach to toll roads. Right now you can allow or avoid those, too. I’d like to be asked about the different segments. For example, I don’t mind the Ohio Turnpike too much, because it’s well-maintained and reasonably priced. On the other hand, the Pennsylvania (state motto: “Stand and deliver!”) Turnpike seems to be very expensive. Overall, I’m not thrilled about any toll road, especially on Interstates where our Federal taxes paid for 90% of the road already, but in some cases I’m willing to pay if the price is fair. It would be great if for each pay stretch of road you could be asked about whether or not you’d like to travel on it. Yes, I can get around it by plotting waypoints, but that’s a bit on the tedious side.

In any case, either of these programs will work for most people’s needs. Navigon is less costly – for example, you only need to pay for traffic once, for all your devices, unlike TomTom, where you have to pay yearly for each device.


Bonus rant, slightly technology related: who was the genius who decided to put up construction signs with things like “Construction 1500 ft.”? Feet? Hmm. My car, and every car I’ve ever driven, can mark off tenths of a mile or a kilometer. But feet? Let’s see – 5,280 feet in a mile, so 1,500 feet is…and I’ve hit a worker.

There a big push on from many levels of government to try and end distracted driving – texting, non-hands-free calling (and even hands-free in some places), etc. I agree that people need to be focussed on the road, not their keyboards. But maybe these governments could start with something entirely in their control – don’t make drivers do math while driving!


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