Sunday, March 18, 2012

Couple May Receive Fine After GPS Led Them on Train Tracks

By amtrak_russ – CC BY 2.0, Image Link

In yet another example of people following GPS to places where anyone with an ounce of common sense wouldn’t go, a couple in Illinois drove on the Metra tracks after the GPS allegedly told them to drive up a ramp used by Metra workers. The couple were in separate vehicles, following each other and while one vehicle got off the tracks, the other was struck by a train, causing a delay during rush hour.

According to the DNA Info article, the married couple were likely attempting to get on to the Kennedy Expressway at North Avenue and instead took the ramp onto the Metra tracks, where the SUV was hit by a train. No one was injured, but the incident delayed around 200 passengers for around three hours while the SUV was towed and the tracks checked for damage. The couple were reportedly given a ticket for trespassing, which is a class C misdemeanor in Illinois. read more

GPS, Galileo to Work Together For Airliner Navigation


If there’s one thing that never fails to make people sit up, pay attention, and finally work together, it has to be air travel and safety. In 1983, President Reagan opened up GPS for civilian use after the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down when it strayed into Soviet airspace. Then, in 2000, GPS accuracy was increased as President Clinton ended Selective Availability. Now, it looks like the aviation community may get yet another tech bump in the near future.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States and the European Union have agreed to work together to allow aircraft to access both GPS and the yet-unfinished Galileo signals, providing better and more accurate navigational information. With this initiative, each system would be working as a backup for the other, providing more protection against hacking, jamming, spoofing, and other similar threats.

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Hudify Uses Your Phone and Apps For HUD


Heads-Up Displays (also called HUD) are, in my opinion, one of the cooler ways to get GPS navigation and instructions. For those unfamiliar, HUD projects the navigation information right on your windshield, sometimes with augmented reality so it looks like the directions are overlaid on the roads themselves. The benefit to this, of course, is that you won’t have to look away from the road, even for a second, to get directions. The downside is that HUDs are usually extremely expensive as it’s still a pretty new technology.

However, it looks like a fully-funded Kickstarter project has launched that will make HUD more readily available to your average consumer. Completely funded last week, and still available through the company website, Hudify is a HUD that is designed to work with your cell phone. This aftermarket HUD is not quite as cool as the ones that project on your windshield, but it’s still a cool idea.

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Exhibition at the British Library Delves Into Mapping History


From the first hand drawn maps used by explorers and sailors to the digital maps used by your average college student navigating a new city, maps are an important part of the history of not only humans, but travel and even GPS. After all, without accurate maps, GPS signals would be basically useless—as seen by the vast number of people who ended up lost because the GPS tried to direct them through streets that no longer existed.

Now through March 1, 2017, the PACCAR Gallery inside the British Library in London will be hosting an exhibition of paper maps. Called Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line, the exhibition explores the power and evolution of maps across the last century and questions how maps effect our daily lives and what it means to be mapped. read more

TomTom and Microsoft Announce Partnership


The GPS industry has changed significantly over the last five or six years. While once a booming trade, the advert of smartphones with GPS chips hit the industry hard, putting DeLorme out of business entirely (to be purchased by Garmin), while the last few giants standing are left to find alternate ways to make their fortunes. While Garmin has chosen to delve into the fitness tracker and smartwatch territory with its line, TomTom has instead focused less on hardware and more on mapping and navigational technology.

In fact, the last couple of years TomTom has made more deals with companies than it has released new products, and the most recent is actually pretty huge for the Dutch company. Last week, TomTom announced that it has entered into a partnership with Microsoft to provide location-based services to Microsoft’s Azure platform. read more

Amazon’s First Customer Drone Delivery Completed

Amazon GPS drone delivery

This is one of Amazon’s early drone prototypes, but not the kind which made the most recent delivery.

Drone delivery has been on the horizon for a couple years now, and it’s no secret that Amazon has been the front runner for this futuristic convenience. As officials here in the United States have not been overly willing to let drone deliveries go through, Amazon moved its operations and testing grounds abroad and it looks like we’re finally starting to see results.

This month marks Amazon’s first commercial drone delivery to a customer. According to ReCode, the delivery took place on December 7, and consisted of an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn. The customer, who lives near the testing facility in Cambridge, England, received his package about 13 minutes after the order was placed. read more

4 Reasons Why GPS Makes You A Better Driver


Having a GPS is a huge boon in this day and age. The ability to not only navigate without the worry of getting lost, but also be able to find the right lane and drive with confidence has the potential to make anyone a better and even a safer driver.

However, there are definitely some downsides to using GPS on the road. Distracted driving is the big one, and not using common sense. But, let’s be honest… even without GPS, the people who fall prey to those dangerous activities would probably still be distracted by something (like a phone) or lack common sense. After all, it is people, not the GPS, which cause accidents. Generally speaking, I think that GPS actually makes you a better driver. Here are four reasons why:

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Garmin Fitness Trackers Get New Safety Feature


Whether you’re into biking or jogging, going out for a morning run or an afternoon ride can be one of the best times of the day. Just you and the road as you push yourself to get a little further, go a little faster, or try out a new route. However, for loved ones at home and your own peace of mind, it’s important to make sure someone knows where you are going and when you’ll be back.

Recently, Strava’s safety feature Beacon was integrated with Garmin’s LiveTrack so riders and runners can share their location with up to three trusted contacts. First launched as part of the Strava app, the Beacon feature is compatible with the following devices: read more

GPS Jamming Becomes Big Problem in Europe


Although GPS is one of the most important technologies of our age, it is surprisingly susceptible to tampering and failure. GPS signals are actually surprisingly weak with leaves them vulnerable to not only spoofing, but jamming. While spoofing is the process of sending fake signals to a GPS device to make it think that it is in a different location, jamming completely scrambles the signals so that they become unusable.

In the United States, both jamming and spoofing are illegal, but other countries (which often use GPS as it was the first and arguably most reliable system) the laws vary and are sometimes nonexistent. This has led to many problems with GPS jamming and spoofing in other countries and here in the US.  read more

Uber Updates Introduce Background GPS Tracking


Although it’s not something that I spend a lot of time writing about on this blog, the reality is that GPS tracking is a huge part of what makes GPS such a useful and prevalent technology. Through GPS tracking apps and websites, users are able to get directions and location-based information and other services. But, with that functionality comes the potential for a lot of privacy issues and concerns.

Recently, the popular app Uber, which provides cab rides from private drivers for less than the cost of a regular taxi, came under fire after an update requests permission to track users location constantly. While users can opt out of the tracking, reports indicate that the app becomes basically unusable and nonfunctional. With the release, Uber stated that it only had intention to track users for 5 minutes after drop off, but the legal language of the permission allows always-on tracking, even when the app is closed.

After the most recent update, when users open the app, they are greeted with the following prompt: read more