back to article TomTom files patent for camera sat nav

TomTom is attempting to move up a gear in the in-car sat nav biz. It recently filed a patent for a GPS device that incorporates a camera to show the driver exactly where to turn off the road ahead. TomTom_camera TomTom's real-view GPS concept The European patent application describes a device that's based on the idea that …


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  1. Torben Mogensen


    Your worry about the driver paying too much attention to the screen seems unwarranted, as the screen shows exactly the same view as through the window (albeit on a smaller scale). So if someone runs in front of the car while you are looking at the screen, you will see it on the screen immediately, unlike the traditional map-based GPS systems, that do take attention away from the "real world".

    That said, a HUD-like presentation does sound good. But I doubt we will get drivers to wear helmets with visors while they drive, so you would need to embed a transparent display into the windscreen and adjust the positioning of the pictures to the position of the driver's head.

    But it might be better to take the driver completely out of the equation. If you have GPS and a camera, you could let a computer do all the driving while avoiding obstacles, obeying speed limits, and so on.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No need to worry.

    " one worry is that if the driver is continually looking at the TomTom's realistic screen image, will they be giving enough attention to the road in front of them "

    If they do that, they'll *very* quickly find out that GPS is only accurate to within a few meters... that's all the difference between turning a corner and smacking into a wall.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now could be the time ...

    ... to dust off that prototype HUD I knocked up when I was a youngster (well, 15 years ago). Maybe windscreen technology has advanced to deal with bright sunlight ....

  4. Callum Urquhart

    Not Working Yet

    So they don't have a working model but they can request a patent? Couldn't I create a patent for something I will invent in the future (honest)?

  5. Karim Bourouba


    I think a few BMW's and some Mercedes come with a HUD to show stuff like speed and proximity to objects etc.

    Would be very cool if this took up the windscreen to give out directions as well as maybe display the speed limit etc?

  6. David Bell

    To Callum

    Yes You Could.

    You can patent an idea and then just licence it to someone else. Get them to do the hard work and watch the cash roll in. Now all I need is an idea....

  7. Rupert Stubbs


    Wouldn't it make more sense to integrate with GoogleMaps? That way you can see where you are whatever zoom level you're at. Much more useful, I'd have thought.

  8. Sandro

    There is no invention here. The idea is totally obvious!

    The idea of overlaying a live camera feed with street information and directions is totally obvious. Yet another unfair patent, if they grant it.

  9. Des

    to Karim Bourouba

    The BMW M5 has a HUD and you can have it display limited info of your choice including simple navigational information - like the simplified info Tom Tom displays above certain speeds.

  10. Matthew

    Integrated FM...

    I'm waiting for TomTom to integrate one of the newly-legalised micro FM transmitters that broadcasts the instructions as an RDS 'traffic announcement'.

    It would interrupt your music, tell you which way to go (through decent speakers rather than a tnny in-built one) and then allow the music to resume playing.

    Maybe I should be off to the patent office with this equally obvious idea...

  11. peter


    Err just put only the arrows and stuff onto the windscreen not the video feed, like Mercedes and Citroen can already do. HUDs are safer because you can put the speedo, gear, Ice/traction, collision warning (before it takes over) and stuff on it.

  12. Dillon Pyron

    Re: Integrated FM

    Damn Matthew, the post offices are closed here today, looks like you beat me to it. Of course, it seems that in the US "obvious" is no longer a limiter.

  13. Tharglet

    What happens if...

    What happens if TomTom goes wrong, when the roads have changed? I know of a couple of places where the roads have changed - but TomTom's maps haven't.

    (one place used to be a roundabout - now it is a set of traffic lights at a junction)

    Would be interesting to see what it does.

  14. Nexox Enigma

    Re: Integrades FM

    In order for the device to interrupt your music, your music would have to be playing through your GPS. If you were listening to a CD in your stereo, there is no way to make it suddenly skip over to play an FM signal when the FM signal wants to be heard. If your music was played through the GPS, then it could broadcast your music, along with whatever instructions it wanted, cutting off the music input when needed.

    All in all, not a great solution, since you'd have to use an mp3 player or somesuch, and you wouldn't be able to use any of the music sources built into your car. In addition to that, FM, and those micro transmitters in particular don't sound great. FM has a signal to noise ratio of about 40dB if I remember correctly, whereas as 128kbit mp3 has got one around 95 db, which is considered 'low'. Since the dB scale is logrythmic, that means that a pretty low quality mp3 has more than 100,000 times less noise in the background, though that number is really just to get a feeling for the scale, you cannot really quantify noise like that.

  15. Jay Zelos


    Personally I'd rather have a GPS system that transmits my location to the extremely slow moving caravan/tractor/artic in front of me in order to get them out of the way. 40mph is *not* the national speed limit.

  16. Charles Manning

    Re: Not Working Yet

    You don't need a working model to get a patent. You can just patent an idea for something that might work with sufficient development.

    GPS augmmmented video is pretty old, so they should not get a patent though.

  17. Richard Halkyard

    Re: Re: Integrades FM

    In the UK and Europe there's a system called RDS (Radio Data System) that broadcasts low-bandwidth data along with the audio, and can transmit data such as the station name and program information. One of the features that it has is that a station's RDS feed can be monitored while the radio is playing through another source. You can then select what you want to listen to and then those come up, it will interrupt whatever it is doing and switch over to the desired radio program, then change back once its finished. This is commonly used for news bulletins and traffic announcements.

  18. Trevor Watt

    @ Jay Zelos

    Actually 40mph _IS_ the national speed limit for a truck on a single carrageway road.

  19. Andy Turner

    They should have rejected the patent

    I'm shocked that a company is allowed to patent an 'idea' so iterative and obvious as this. Surely anyone who gave it a moments though could have come up with this idea ("Wouldn't it be cool if.."). I've certainly discussed it before, along with a HUD variant on your windscreen. So now, only TomTom is allowed to develop the idea, therefore leading to a monopoly on the idea and a lack of diverse innovation and competition? Great move patent office!

    Personally I think it doesn't have a chance until GPS signals get more accurate anyway.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No chance of this being granted....

    ....loads of prior art.

    See for example.

  21. Rob


    Not necessarily, bluetooth phone setups with a stereo can cut the music out and then return. Most (if not all) TomTom units come with Bluetooth so that you can use your mobile phone for a data connection for traffic update or TomTom Buddies, if your using a TomTom that's installed on a PDA smartphone it'll be even easier to setup in this fashion.

    But then again how long before we see Stereos that have some sort of compatibility with a SatNav system. It didn't take long for the MP3 player market to force the car stereo manufacturers to add mini jacks so you can plug your MP3 player (or smartphone in some cases) into it.

  22. Guy

    HUD in BMW's

    Off topic I know, but is it possible put up a warning sign saying "Use your F@?.~'#g indicators"

  23. Scott Mckenzie

    To Jay

    You're quite correct, *50mph* is the national speed limit on a Single Carriageway for a Caravan being towed...

    You could always buy a quicker car and overtake more easily, although overtaking seems to be frowned upon in this country these days anyway!

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