Navteq tries to make GPS directions more 'human'

Company creates a way to make GPS directions far more understandable to the average driver.

Digital map maker Navteq is launching a service designed to add the human element to GPS navigation, the company announced Thursday at IFA in Berlin.

Dubbed Natural Guidance, the service ditches traditional GPS navigation instructions and provides users with directions that they would otherwise receive from friends or family. Rather than say, "turn right in 150 feet," as current GPS devices do now, Navteq's system gives directions based on landmarks. The instructions will include "turn right after the yellow shop," or "turn right at the traffic signal," the company said in a statement. Navteq said its research found that people want "more intuitive and practical directions."

Implementing Natural Guidance will be extremely difficult. Currently, GPS services go by street names and distance, which rarely change. But Natural Guidance requires built-in information on everything from trees and shops in an area to the color of buildings. All of that information is subject to change on any given day.

Navteq claims that it has considered that problem. The company said in a statement that it "employs a variety of...criteria to help optimize when and how the guidance is presented to consumers." That said, Navteq didn't specifiy how it will update its service when landmarks change. One might assume that user input will play a key role in correcting Natural Guidance mistakes.

Navteq's Natural Guidance is available in Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin, and New York, among other major metro areas. The company said it plans to expand its support for more cities worldwide by the end of 2011. The software will be offered on participating vendor devices.

A Navteq representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on which devices Natural Guidance will be made available.

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