Bits & Bytes
LOST? TRY ASKING THE CARE FOR DIRECTIONS
Electronic maps for cars have suffered from at least one, and sometimes two, major flaws: They've required drivers to take their eyes off the road to read their screens, and some have relied on expensive satellite-based positioning systems. AudioNav, from Amerigon Inc. of Monrovia, Calif., eliminates both problems.
Hooked up to a car's CD player, the voice-activated system actually talks to the driver. The system includes a microphone that hooks to the driver's sun visor and a box about the size of a videotape, which connects to the back of the car's CD player. When activated, it asks for the car's current position and where you want to go. The driver spells out street names, which eliminates most misunderstandings. After checking its CD-ROM disk, AudioNav then tells the driver how far away the destination is and how long the trip will take, then provides directions. If the driver says, "I'm lost," the system will ask questions to determine the car's location. AudioNav will go for $400 or $500 when available in July. Maps for major cities will come on disks that will sell for about $50. Amerigon is negotiating with carmakers to have the system made an option on new cars.EDITED BY IRA SAGER