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Automotive Science of Maps

Is it acceptable to be late when you have navigation tech?

The very existence of navigation technology has changed the standards of what is considered polite or socially acceptable.

As a Marketing Intelligence Manager at HERE, I received some great insights from a qualitative research study we carried out in conjunction with London-based agency FACE to better understand navigation habits of drivers in Berlin and New York. We put ourselves in the passenger seat,  accompanying drivers on their daily trips as well as inviting them to group discussions about navigation aids.

“I want to know where ‘there’ is, not just how to get there” respondent, Berlin

The first important learning was that reliability is key when it comes to navigation. Obviously, in more remote areas you need navigation aids that do not require a permanent Internet connection or recharging. But it is not only in the jungle or the desert where drivers look for dependable navigation aids.

Late-1

Getting lost is generally a highly emotional experience. It is not necessarily about personal safety, it can be driven by a variety of situations. Nobody wants to let others down, look foolish or ignorant in front of others, or miss a very important appointment. These days it would imply that one is unable to use simple devices.

“The coach kept asking me ‘where were you, how did you get lost? We all made it fine: you don’t have a GPS?” respondent, New York

Navigation aids help to alleviate these fears, but they’ve also make us dependent on them. We have seen many drivers play it safe, having multiple navigation aids in case one fails - even an old paper map gives us that necessary emotional reassurance. And the broad availability of ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) information has made timeliness a matter of course – being late without notice is regarded as a modern insult. It is clear that a well-organised, real-time society depends on managing tight schedules.

Late-2

So what do people do to arrive on time?

The solidity of a car’s built-in navigation system makes one feel safe – they are always there, they cannot break and do not depend on battery life like smartphones. The same goes for offline maps - they work even if there is no Internet connection, like in the countryside.

 

“I have to drive for my work, so I’ve got to have navigation; God knows what would happen if I didn’t have it” respondent, New York

Late-5But as well as arriving on time drivers also strive for a smooth journey. This starts with planning, exploring the area if the destination is unfamiliar, checking traffic and weather in order to choose a suitable means of transport (or clothing in the morning).

We have also learned from our respondents that if it comes to traffic information they prefer to have an overcautious forecast and then be pleasantly surprised. Actually, some of them were really proud if they arrived before the forecasted ETA, as if they’d won a race or game of some sort!

During the journey, drivers still need real-time information but they don't want to be constantly bothered - a smart navigation aid is described as a non-intrusive one, which elegantly alerts the driver only when it is necessary. Our respondents often verbalized their worries related to distractions, especially when talking about mobile device usage in the car (e.g. making phone calls, texting, using social media etc). By constantly supplying updates, the versatility of mobile devices can become a disadvantage.

“The reason I didn’t want to use my phone initially is that I didn’t want to be distracted while driving” respondent, New York

Altogether, we saw that interest in navigation technology with added traffic information is growing, as drivers benefit from the resulting social efficiency.

Image credit: Late-1,-2,-5 by HERE; Late-4 by WorldWide (Shutterstock)

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