Monday, June 25, 2007

GPS screen currently illegal in Quebec

I was among those who thought an in-car GPS map and voice prompts were gimmicky. But I used one while visiting Toronto two years ago and changed my mind.

Part of the fun of exploring a new city is looking at the buildings, watching people and noticing things that make that city different from your own. But when you are not totally expert in the other city, it can make your driving experience tense. Instead of enjoying the ride and exploring the area, you are instead focused on trying to read street signs to not make any mistakes.

GPS navigation removes the panic and angst from driving and instead, lets you enjoy the ride. Plot an end point and the voice guide will prompt you where to turn. If you make a mistake, it will navigate you make on track. Instead or worrying about watching for signs, you can instead look around. The worry about making a mistake is replaced by the fun of exploring--with a really guide.

Amazingly, we now learn that GPS navigation screens are not legal in Quebec, but will be by 2008. Currently, as far as Quebec is concerned, a GPS screen is like a television screen. It seems Quebec law has not kept up with the latest technology. Perhaps someone should send Premier Charest a subscription to Wired magazine.

It turns out we can thank cabbies for helping nudge the government into the twenty-first century. They struggled for 10 years (yes, 10 years!) to convince the government these navigation systems were a good idea.

The screens will only be legal by next year, so you might want to cover your GPS screen when the police pulls you over.

Quebec expected to finally make GPS in cars legal
Mike King
CanWest News Service
Friday, June 22, 2007

MONTREAL -- It's another quirk that makes Quebec distinct in North America - though that's expected to change by year's end or early 2008.

Quebec is the only jurisdiction on the continent where satellite or other navigation systems using screens are illegal for drivers of non-emergency vehicles.

That will come as a surprise to most, because the devices -- better known as global positioning systems (GPS) -- are a standard feature on a growing number of luxury vehicles.

They're also offered by car-rental agencies and sold through hundreds of retailers across Quebec.

But under a Quebec's highway safety code article, it is prohibited to have a television or other screen displaying information that a motorist can directly or indirectly see while driving.

"According to the law, even OnStar is illegal," said Constable Marc Butz, a spokesman for the Quebec provincial police, referring to the subsidiary of General Motors that has become a world leader in in-vehicle navigation systems.

Butz said the provincial police force has handed out 28 tickets to motorists since 2003 for having such systems with screens.

Montreal police issued 190 tickets during that period, but those figures don't show how many were for navigational systems with screens as opposed to, say, television monitors.

"The law is idiotic," argued Marcel Bouchard, Quebec's only authorized representative for Kansas-based Garmin International Inc., which designs, manufactures and markets GPS equipment for the consumer market.

"A ticket for that is crazy -- I've never heard of anyone getting ticketed for that," Bouchard said.

Even when he was recently stopped by the police for running a red light, Bouchard said, the officer praised his global positioning system rather than give him a ticket for it.

"I'm surprised it's illegal, but it's certainly tolerated," Bouchard added.

OnStar has more than 37,000 subscribers in Quebec alone, Jocelyn Allen, OnStar's vice-president of public affairs and corporate communications, said from Detroit.

The Hertz Corp. introduced the NeverLost on-board navigation system in its rental cars in 1995.

Katura Hudson, public affairs specialist at Hertz headquarters in New Jersey, said NeverLost has been available in Montreal since July 2000. It costs an additional $14 a day in mid-size, full-size and luxury vehicles.

It's also possible to get a GPS-equipped vehicle from Avis Rent A Car System Inc. in Quebec for an extra charge of $11 a day.

The highway code is expected to be modified by year's end, however, thanks to a more than decade-long fight by Quebec's cabbies to make GPS legal for taxis.

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