We're working on a turn by turn navigation system. Most of our users are parcel delivery drivers. They use the software 6-8 hours a day for navigation. So the driver can easily hear 1000 times a day (not exaggerated) a sentence like 'In 100meters turn right'. I would like to have something more varied.

Should I rather keep it 'Short and sweet' like it is or maybe make it a bit more verbose like 'Turn left in 100 meters and then it's only 4 more minutes to your destination'?

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    As a student I worked as a parcel delivery driver. When I drove an unknown route I used the navigation too, but I turned off all sound. And often the map without any address loaded in was enough. With just the map I could see street names and know where to go. When I did enter an address, the visual cues were enough for me. Did you do any research to see if "annoying audio cues" are really considered to be a problem? – Paul van den Dool Jun 29 '16 at 9:34
  • We have direct contact to about 10drivers that use the app every day (and they channel the feedback of all the other drivers to us, too). They disliked some audio cues because the text to speech quality was really bad (which is dependent on the devices manufacturer). They were immediately happier when the app said 'please'. But I don't like to say please for something so ordinary. – fancy Jun 29 '16 at 10:05
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    I'm not sure that we can provide the right answer for you. You have access to drivers and to the system, so why not create a ton of messages and test test test? Let us know what you find out. – Ken Mohnkern Jul 29 '16 at 12:47

The title states you are looking for a Modern solution but the solution has nothing to do with being modern or not. A better question is whether the instructions are usable or not.

The bottom line is you need to ensure the user receives accurate but succinct instructions that help them get to where they need to be without distracting them from the act of driving. Adding additional verbose embellishments will become distracting. Safety first.

  • Thanks for your answer. With 'modern' I merely meant that this 'In 200 meters turn right' hasn't changed since the 90s. A time were most software was quite formal and made sure to be technically correct and less about empathising with the user. – fancy Jun 29 '16 at 12:25
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    There is a saying that says if something isn't broken then don't fix it. "In 200 meters turn right" is actually the best instruction for a driver because 200 meters is not very far away and the driver is now supposed to be getting ready to alter their driving in anticipation of the exit from their current road onto another road. It hasn't changed because it is the best instruction, given the circumstances. – SteveD Jun 29 '16 at 13:27

I agree that modern GPS systems are still a bit antiquated when it comes to the voice instructions. The voice usually sounds robotic like a text to speech program from the 1990s. There are many little things about them that make it annoying to deal with all the time.

Many of the names for cities, routes, etc. are often mispronounced. There are many bugs such as one of my GPS' says 9 grams when I am supposed to turn onto 9G. A new voice, combined with improved pronunciation would go a long way. The voice can also be abrupt as well, so having the voice start out more softly, or with another non-vocal cue would help.

Perhaps a very calm tone could alert them that there is a turn ahead so they know to look at the screen. The on-screen instructions could be improved quite a bit, and be updated in real time. The use of more colors, better animation, etc. would be a big improvement. For example, the turn arrow could gently blink as you are approaching your turn. If there are multiple turns close to one another, it should also display at least one turn ahead so the driver has enough time to react.

Another issue is that they give false information. It may say to turn, but in reality, you are staying on the same road, and there is an exit that it gets confused with. They also get very confused with tight turns and cul-de-sacs.

The routing algorithms also have issues. They tend to send you on a wild goose chase on tons of back roads, and sometimes they are unpaved just to save a tenth of a mile or so compared to just staying on the main road. They should be setup in a way that will always try to route main roads, and only go on back roads when is completely necessary. It should also keep track of the number of turns, and reject routes that have excessive turns. The GPS software which is used by some major courier companies knows to avoid certain patterns such as left hand turns because it takes longer to turn left than right. It can also be tuned to avoid traffic lights, school zones, business districts, etc. and stay on the truck route.

It is also difficult to input information into them. The driver should be able to control it all by voice commands. Lets say that they want to go on break and they are looking for a fast food place. They should be able to quickly, and easily add that destination to the route as a waypoint without disrupting the rest of the route. Lets also say that they are 5 miles away from the closest fast food place, and there are still stops along the way. Normal GPS systems will just add the new destination as the next stop. If it does that, that means you will have to backtrack. The algorithm should figure out when the best place to insert that destination. It should also handle multiple stops in the middle, such as for fuel, and food at different locations.

All of these features would be great for consumer models as well. It seems like the GPS market has stagnated quite a bit since many newer cars have them built in. Many others simply rely on their phones.

  • Hi, thank you a lot for sharing your insights. "The GPS software which is used by some major courier companies knows to avoid certain patterns..." do you have more details/examples on this? – fancy Jul 29 '16 at 12:45
  • I don't know exact details since it is proprietary technology, but their software can pick the best routes based on traffic, road conditions, etc. The left turn part was done in part to save fuel because the truck has to idle while it waits for an opportunity to turn, which wastes fuel and time. The routes also are set up to service one side of the road at a time, so the courier doesn't have to cross the street. Instead it will have them drive down the road in a loop and only deliver on one side. In the US it would be the right side. In the UK it would be left. There are many others as well. – Jason Hutchinson Jul 29 '16 at 13:33

I think the sentences should be:

  • complete (all is necessary);
  • not more than sufficient;
  • clear.

A user don't need to hear in this case 100 times "Please", but don't replace "Turn left" with something like "do the same thing", even you think repetition is not so great.

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