GPS has replaced the map as most people's navigation tool of choice, but it has its limitations. In order to accurately determine a car's current position--and thus calculate a route--a system needs to constantly receive signals from an overhead network of satellites.
That can be a problem in urban areas, where tall buildings and bridges can temporarily block the signal, or where underground driving through a tunnel or parking garage can completely isolate a car and its driver from the satellite beacon.
Swiss semiconductor manufacturer U-Blox thinks it has a solution. Its latest navigation chip uses a new system called "3D Automotive Dead Reckoning," or "3D ADR." The name sounds reassuring enough.
Rather than relying exclusively on satellite signals to orient itself, 3D ADR uses sensors that track a vehicle's speed, horizontal movement, and elevation. The latter is especially important considering that enclosed multistory parking garages are among the most notorious GPS dead zones.
By measuring movement in three dimensions 3D ADR allows a car's navigation system to keep track of its location, so that it doesn't need to re-orient itself every time it loses and regains a link with a satellite.
Since 3D ADR is essentially just a chip that can work with a car's built-in sensors and navigation system, U-Blox says it should be fairly easy to install. The company says its chip will work most vehicles regardless of their drivetrain configuration.