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April 16, 1997|
There is something heady about the way the Web defies geography, but it is also vaguely unsettling, which is why NavTech Driver Directions is such a relief. By making good on its offer to provide "door-to-door, turn-by-turn driving directions between any two addresses or points-of-interest in a covered metropolitan area," NavTech brings virtual voyagers back to earth.
Although perfectly suited to the Internet, NavTech is actually a sampling of the latest in emergent car-navigation technology. In the United States selected car models, both retail and rental, now feature "in-vehicle, route-guidance products," of which the NavTech Database is the core, designed to calculate a driver's course and deliver directions point by point and in a timely manner. For a time, NavTech is making its services available for free on the Web.
Pragmatic as a highway sign, gray as a sidewalk, NavTech's format is easy to read and easy to follow. Traveling from Boston to visit old friends in the maze of Manhattan? Type in your address, right down to the street number, as well as theirs. Within a couple of minutes the entire route, broken into snippets of information (e.g., "Start going Southwest on HANOVER ST towards CROSS ST. Drive 0.1 miles," or, "Merge on to I-84 W. Drive 41.2 miles"), marches down the screen, complete with no-nonsense road illustrations and the corresponding cumulative miles. Trying to locate the closest ATM? Punch in your whereabouts, select "ATM," and alert yourself to all money machines within a chosen radius. Contemporary and useful as NavTech is, it's also good for its share of nostalgia. Log in an old address or a favorite haunt and surprise yourself with the shock of a long-forgotten street name along the way. NavTech's directions may not be as efficient as they are straightforward, lesser-known streets may not appear, and not every city is in NavTech's database, but considering the range of options and the ease in which they are offered, it is difficult to find much fault with the NavTech process.
Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.