Thursday, May 21, 2015

TomTom Rider Update 3

There's no better way to put a SatNav device to the test than a good long trip. As of yesterday, I just completed a week-long, 2,977 mile trip to North Carolina >Tennessee>Mississippi>New Orleans>Alabama. I used most all of the functions of the TomTom Rider on this trip and it did most everything that I expected of it.

The initial comment is that the TomTom Rider mechanically operated perfectly. I had no loose screws, the mount stayed firm, and the rain rolled off the device without an issue. Nothing cracked, nothing broke. I will mention that I put a plastic baggie over the docking cradle when the Rider was not installed, such as in the evenings. I did this because the electrical connections are exposed on the docking cradle when the Rider is not installed. I have no reason to believe, or knowledge, that moisture would cause a problem, but covered it in basically exercising an abundance of caution.

This particular journey required a lot of Interstate and highway travel. One feature of the TomTom that was really quite nice as you move from highway to highway is the Lane Guidance Option. I'd previously gave this feature a bum-rap in an early post but didn't really understand it's function until this trip. I was under the impression that the lane guidance was solely reflected in the navigation information bar, center bottom. However, the lane guidance is predominantly featured in the actual map as you approach a changes that require one or more lane choices. As you roll into the lane change the map itself changes to reflect a closeup view of the lanes and flashing green arrows to indicate where you need to be. I need to admit that this was a pretty decent little feature when navigating highways through the likes of Atlanta and Nashville.

I did experience some recurring glitches that I'm getting a better sense for. The first is the use of installed maps that are drafted on the Tyre Software (discussed in an earlier post). I have become a big fan of the Tyre Software; it's made drafting routes very simple. However, I've had a few observations when actually following the route along the lines that either the route seems to point you to places that you can't go or don't want to go.

By way of background, the Tyre Software is loaded on your computer and helps you to create routes by navigating you between waypoints that you select. Once you create the route via waypoints, you can download the waypoints onto your Rider with a single click. Think of waypoints as nothing more than points on a map, like thumb-tacks on a paper map hung on the wall. Once you place those tacks on the map, the software chooses the roads to navigate you from waypoint (thumb-tack), to waypoint (thumb-tack) to waypoint (thumb-tack). You can have two waypoints in one map (Plan Route function on main screen) or multiple waypoints in one map (My Itineraries Function on main screen).

The waypoints, now loaded on your TomTom Rider, are the basis that the TomTom chooses the roads and highways to navigate between waypoints. It very well could select different roads than you saw when creating the route in the Tyre Software on your computer. However, it does give you an opportunity to both review the route, listed as road-by-road, and/or visually watch the track being navigated by your icon (little motorcycle) on the screen of your device.

Now, not to confuse the situation any more than I already have, when you build your route in Tyre, you can simply give it an address and tell it to make that address a waypoint. I did just that when creating an route from my hotel in North Carolina to a Vintage Motorcycle Museum that I wanted to visit in a nearby town ... then I continued that route on to do a ride loop. The address was the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC.

Below is a screen shot of the partial Tyre-to-Travel route from my computer (in Blue) leading to the museum address (physical address=red pin = waypoint). I have added the red lines to show where the Rider navigated me and, as you can see, those roads are dead ends. This navigation is nothing short of an error and I don't know what gives rise to it. Fortunately, I've been to the museum before and know where it was. However, I rode up those two roads (red lined) to see if TomTom had a kewl short-cut for me ... not the case.

I don't know why the TomTom sent me down obvious dead ends but that wasn't the only glitch. On a couple occasions, including this and some previous trips, I've noted the nav line tracking on the TomTom map (reflected as a blue line along the center of the road) just turn off into nowhere. For example, on this trip I was riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the nav line left the road altogether into the mountainside. I could see the nav line on the screen off in the distance. Eventually, the TomTom recalculated the nav line back to the road. This particular case is obvious because there are no other roads. I've had this happen when there are other roads around and you get sort of tricked into leaving the correct navigation route ... at which point the TomTom recomputes and puts you back on the correct road and you go, "wtf just happened?"

Now, having written up these navigation glitches I don't want to give the impressing that there are serious problems present. On the contrary, with well over 4,000 miles on the TomTom at present, I'd say these navigation glitches are pretty minor and have been few and far between.

One area that does seem to be a problem, in my view, is the speed limit indicator (shows as max speed). Like most SatNavs the TomTom Rider reflects the legal speed limit and the actual speed being traveled. The TomTom reflects the correct speed being traveled. However, at this point, I can tell you that the legal speed limits it reflects are more often wrong than they are right. This raises a couple problems. First, over the years of SatNav use I've found myself getting comfortable using these navigation devices for speed limits and actual speeds being traveled. I'm back to taking account of road signs now for speed limits. Sure, I can do that. However, I thought I purchased a device with that feature on a screen in front of me. Apparently not. Second, I believe the design of maps/routes is, to some degree, predicated on legal speed limits. Certainly, the legal speed limits must be considered when determining the "Fasted Route" among other things. If the legal speed limits are wrong, then the integrity of the routing feature must be impaired. Of course, I'm speculating. Bottom line, I never had an issue with this feature on my prior Garmins. TomTom should look into this.

Even though we have a few not-so-great points in this post, overall I continue to be pleased with the performance of the TomTom Rider. It's a rugged little device that has proven much more user friendly than other brands/models that I've used. It's really done everything that I need done both locally and out on the roads.

Previous posts on the TomTom Rider Review are below:

TomTom Rider

TomTom Rider Update 1

TomTom Rider Update 2

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