Understanding GPS: How Does GPS Work In Cars?

Are you trying to get better at understanding GPS? Read this article to get the answer to your question “How does GPS work in cars?”

You likely use your GPS to get around in your vehicle almost every day. That might be a standalone GPS device that you keep in your car, or it might just be one of the map applications that you have on your smartphone.

Either way, most people in the modern era rely on some form of GPS to get around. It’s easy to pull up a map these days and see exactly where you are, just as it’s easy to get step by step directions to your eventual destination.

How does GPS work in cars, though? Even if you use your GPS every day, you might never have stopped to wonder how the device operates. If you’re curious about how GPS devices work in vehicles, read on. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know.

How Does GPS Work in Cars?

You’re on the road, and your GPS system knows exactly where you are and where you’re headed. How is that possible?

You can thank a series of satellites launched into the orbit of the Earth’s atmosphere back in the early nineties. About two dozen of these satellites were sent up 13,000 miles above the planet’s surface back in the year 1994.

The satellites move over the planet west-to-east at a very fast rate. So fast, in fact, that they pass fully around the planet over the course of one day. These satellites can be hugely helpful in collecting data and transmit a lot of information back to Earth.

In addition to the date, time, and health status of the satellite, these orbiting devices also transmit detailed information about their current location.

When you use a GPS system in your vehicle, the device is determining your location based on where and when the satellite signal it received was sent from. In most cases, a GPS will be receiving signals from one to three different satellites at once. Using the signals from all of these different satellites helps to give you a much more accurate depiction of where you are located.

There’s no limit to how many satellites a GPS device can rely on at once. A device can use the signal from up to a dozen at a time if need be. The more signals are in play, the more accurate your location should be.

A GPS receiver can calculate the speed you’re moving down the highway as well as the direction you’re going in, to better predict your movement down a roadway.

History of GPS

The satellite system that went up in the early nineties wasn’t the first time we sent GPS satellites into space. That was actually as early as 1978, when we set up the original global positioning system. This system was designed for the benefit of civilians but also for the U.S. military, who first designed the GPS technology.

Despite what some may think, military GPS is not any stronger or more accurate than what normal civilians have access to.

Today, GPS satellites have benefited greatly from advances in modern tech. Modern satellites weigh about 2,000 pounds and can last in good condition in space for nearly a decade. They run off of solar panels positioned on the exterior of the satellite. There are always many replacements ready to go back on Earth whenever needed.

Other countries around the globe have their own GPS satellite systems that they’ve put into orbit as well.

The GPS receivers have also benefited greatly from advances in modern tech. Back in 1978, a receiver was a huge device that required a great deal of computing power. Today, a receiver might be a tiny chip smaller then the nail on your fingernail, and it still might be more accurate than the version that existed in 1978.

How Accurate is GPS in a Car?

If you’re using the GPS system in your vehicle, how accurate of a reading can you get? It’s something many drivers wonder as they head down the open roads and freeways.

Modern GPS receivers are accurate usually up to about 10-15 meters. That’s a pretty small margin of error considering how far away these satellites above us are! However, it’s important to remember when looking at GPS devices that there could be small errors in reporting one’s location.

More expensive and stand-alone GPS devices often claim an ever higher percentage of accuracy. Most, in fact, report that they can determine a location within three meters of total accuracy. The more expensive a unit is, the more likely it can pinpoint your exact and precise location.

Of course, there are a number of obstacles on the open road that still give some GPS units trouble. If you’re on a highway directly under another roadway, it’s easy for a GPS device to get confused about where you are. If you head into a tunnel, your receiver might lose tough with the satellites and lose track of where you are.

In these instances, a device will attempt to use your speed and direction to predict your movement until you retain satellite reception once again. Fixing these problems is something those that work in GPS technology are still working on.

Learning about Car GPS

How does GPS work in cars? If you’ve ever been curious about catching your location while on the open road, the above information should be a great read. Complicated technical work goes into the simple, small GPS device you use to get around. Now you can better appreciate it.

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