Another large collection of pictures, detailing how the navigation system works in GBMINI#5. Note that you can also talk to the car (!) which might arguably be an easier way to drive the complex navigation system – but for now, let’s push, turn and click the joystick 🙂
When you’re not being guided somewhere, the navigation display will show a map around your current location; the bottom of the screen shows what audio is playing (here, Sirius satellite radion channel 22 “1st Wave”, as well as the time. I think “TI” means that traffic information is available). Top left is highlighted white, indicating it’s the selected control for the joystick. You can rotate the joystick left/right to decrease/increase the map scale (currently “1/4 mls” whatever that means), and you can click the joystick to go back to the navigation menus (as indicated by the left pointing arrow).
So let’s choose a New destination; The display shows recent destinations, which we could select by rotating then clicking the joystick – but we’ll just click now to enter a New destination (which we could select from our address book, or specify step-by-step). An address is specified by State and Town and optionally also by Street and perhaps House number or Intersection.
The last destination is shown – so here, we push down on the joystick to select the last address, then select and click on State to enter a new State; we rotate to the State we want, then click to select it. Next, we move to Town, and click to enter a new Town. We’re given an A…Z list which we can rotate through and click the joystick to choose a letter; as we do this, the list of Towns reduces to match the partial entry we’ve made; once we’ve entered a few letters, we can select the Town by pushing down in to the list and rotating to the Town we want, then clicking to select:
And now, we might want to enter a Street – if so, we proceed in the same way by selecting letters from the A…Z list, homing in on the address we want, but instead, we’ll just choose Start Guidance which will now navigate us to the center of Peabody, MA … it took GBMINI#5 9s to do the calculation, and then the display shows us the map once again, but with the right half showing diagrammed route directions (we also have audio prompts):
This display shows that we need to turn left on to Gee Avenue, then bear left; at the bottom of the display we see our ETA and distance to destination. Again, the top left is selected (highlighted white) so we can spin the joystick to zoom in/out.
We can also push the joystick right, to switch over to the symbolic menu top right of the screen; we can silence audio directions, call up traffic information, and change the map style – the “back of car” symbol is supposed to represent a “perspective” map view – believe it or not, these maps are “perspective” but they’re nothing like as clear/useful as the TomTom maps I used in California last month!
You can click the “back of car” to change the map view; here now we have “north up” which shows a flat map with North at the top (note how the symbolic menu has changed):
Other ways to get guidance include a Route list; I quite like the “Arrow” view mode, which hides the map and simply gives information on the next turn – but this is because I find the “perspective” view so much less useful than what I’m used to on TomTom … Anyway, the Arrow view has a neat “countdown” bar which shows the distance to the next turn as you approach it, shrinking down to zero as you reach the turn:
Other navigation features include planning the route in a different way – for example avoiding toll roads. The “Dynamic route” choice means that the route will be automatically altered if necessary, in response to traffic information. Otherwise, the navigation is supposed to prompt you at the last exit before the traffic problem (I don’t have much traffic driving home to work, to test this feature!)
We can also manually call up a traffic information list, and read details about it – but this is a rather long-winded / un-intuitive user interface!
Finally, there’s this rather curious display that shows latitude / longitude and altitude; the only way I’ve got this to appear is to start and then cancel guidance, so the right half display changes from showing the next turn to showing this information (and if I go away from this display and then return to it, the information is gone and the map once more fills the whole window!):
In my opinion, the navigation system – like the audio controls – would benefit from a different user interface. The whole business of pushing the joystick left/right/up/down, rotating it, and clicking it, makes for an over-complex interface. Worse, many times you might expect to use the joystick to do something, you can’t – for example when looking at traffic information, you might expect to be able to step from one traffic issue to the next by pushing the joystick, but no (instead you have to push up, click, rotate to the next, click again!)
On the other hand, having navigation fully integrated to the car should give a better product – for example it should be possible for the car to successfully navigate through the “Big Dig” tunnels in Boston (but I haven’t tried it yet). And the traffic information should be helpful on busy routes (with no need for wires, like with TomTom).
Another interesting feature is that it can start giving you route guidance before it’s finished calculating the route – I asked it to plan the route from home to Monterey, CA and it started giving directions long before it was able to give me a route list. But then, it took 40s before it could offer it’s initial directions, so I guess that feature is necessary (or I’d have perhaps been waiting minutes!)
I’ve hardly used the R56 navigation system at all, but so far my opinion would be to not order it in another MINI, but stay with TomTom – much less expensive, and more user-friendly! But I plan to continue comparing these two systems, in the months ahead …