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FAQs about Car GPS Systems

by Paul Sanders

Roadtrip with a car GPS

For those of us who don't like to ask for directions, car GPS systems are indispensible, especially when driving across the country or in a new city. GPS navigation continues to improve and become more widely adopted, offering more features than just maps and directions. You may be looking to install a car GPS to navigate the roads and byways of your state or city but want a little more information about GPS before you start shopping. Here are some frequently asked questions about car GPS and GPS systems in general.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. How does GPS work?
    The GPS system works with a network of satellites in orbit around the earth. Civilian GPS systems like hand-held or car GPS receive signals from, but don't transmit signal to, the satellites. Using the position of the signal from several satellites in the sky allows the GPS to triangulate its position on the surface of the earth. Then the GPS unit translates that data into a visual image on the screen, using it to tell you where you are and give you directions in real time.

  2. What types of car GPS systems are available?
    There are several manufacturers producing car GPS. The difference lies in the maps they use and the software features available. Some features that differentiate one GPS navigation system from another are touch screens, text-to-speech and programmable features.

  3. Does a GPS require a subscription to use?
    No. The U.S. Air Force currently controls the GPS system, and presidential directives have declared that there will be no fees associated with using the GPS satellites. Subscriptions for features from your car-GPS manufacturer may be a different story. You car GPS will come with basic software and maps, but updates and special features may require a one-time or monthly fee.

  4. How do GPS units handle new road construction?
    GPS manufacturers provide periodic map updates for cities, states and whole continents. You may even be able to get updates to your car GPS for free.

  5. What are some common features for car GPS?
    Driving directions are the most common car-GPS feature, but you can also get a GPS that give spoken directions, live traffic data, Bluetooth compatibility and multi-language support, to name a few.

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