DETROIT - In a market crowded with navigation systems, Magna International Inc. believes its product competes on the level that matters most to consumers - price.
The Navex system would add less than E600 to the sticker price of a new vehicle and would cost automakers less than E500, says Gary Benninger, vice president for MagnaWorks, the unit of the Canadian auto supplier dedicated to navigation technologies.
The key to Navex's cost is that the map database and computing power needed for calculating route guidance are at a call center, not on board the vehicle.
This simplifies the vehicle's electrical architecture while also making it easy and cost effective to keep the map database updated.
Navex is the product of a joint venture formed last year between Magna and Magellan, maker of portable Global Positioning System navigation units.
Magellan makes the NeverLost navigation unit used by Hertz in its rental vehicles, and much of that technology is used in Navex.
In a prototype, the screen and control buttons are integrated into an overhead console. The location was picked because it was near the eye level of the driver.
But Magna also is experimenting with putting the screen in the gauge cluster.
To plan a trip, the driver presses a button on the console, which places a cellular call to the service center.
An operator at the center puts in the route request to the computer, which then sends the route data back to the car. A typical route request takes up only 30 kilobytes, so it loads into the system's cache memory in the car relatively quickly.
The route information includes data within a 2.5km stretch along the route, so if the driver makes a wrong turn it is possible for the system to calculate new directions without recalling the service center.
The Navex is based on standard architecture, so it should be compatible with various service providers and can be upgraded, Benninger says. MagnaWorks does not have a buyer for the system, he says, but has only recently started marketing it to automakers.