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Car and Driver: Atlas Plugged In: Rand McNally Launches Dash-Mounted Digital Infotainment Hub


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When you hear the name Rand McNally, it probably conjures up an image of a big, 11-by-15.5-inch anthology of U.S. and Canadian road maps. After all, the Rand McNally Road Atlas has been helping drivers find their way to North American destinations since at least 1924. But in an age of satellite-based nav systems, extracting information from those meticulously printed pages has become an increasingly anachronistic activity—not to mention dangerous for drivers in a moving vehicle. Thus the company used the Chicago show to introduce a digital device called OverDryve, a dashboard tablet that not only fulfills navigation functions, but also hands-free phone calls and text-to-speech.


An integrated microphone allows voice command of telephonics, texts, and accessing of apps galore. As is common with built-in video-capable systems from auto manufacturers, a lockout feature refuses to allow streaming videos when the car is on the move. So, you’ll have to watch Revolt of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders some other time, but take comfort in knowing that your kids won’t be able to watch Furious 7 while they’re driving. Also, for those generations who might have difficulty with transition from Rand McNally’s printed Road Atlas, all the contents of that tome are baked into the tablet. In fact, the navigation draws on Rand McNally’s vast database.


Three Sizes


The key elements of the system are a GPS antenna, backed by a GPS chip embedded in the tablet, to ensure satellite connectivity. There’s also a cord that connects to the vehicle’s radio (no satellite stations), as well as a speaker integrated with the tablet that’s rated for 3 watts, roughly triple the wattage of the average smartphone speaker, we’re told. A tenacious 3.5-inch suction cup secures the mounting arm to the vehicle’s windshield, and the tablet attaches to that via a magnetic mount, easily removable when it’s time to park the car. The tablet is powered via the vehicle’s radio, and system installation will be handled by the retailers handling sales. Initially, that will be Best Buy, beginning in June. The OverDryve lineup will offer three options, with anticipated pricing increasing with screen size: 7.0-inch, $299; 8.0-inch screen, $399; 10.0 inch, $499.


A tire-pressure-monitoring system (TPMS) function, entailing a glovebox-located transmitter and valve-stem pressure gauges, is available as an option for $149, and there’s also a rearview camera option. The backup camera requires additional installation, and will sell for $99. The system also can receive onboard vehicle diagnostics via Bluetooth as a $100 option.




GoPro Alternative


Another available standalone feature Rand McNally introduced at Chicago is a dashcam capable of recording (and later downloading) roughly six hours of footage, or up to several days’ worth with its time-lapse function. The dashcams include GPS chips and have 170 degrees of vision, wider than a GoPro, touts Rand McNally, and for a little less money, with pricing ranging from $99 to $179. (Racers take note.) The dashcams will go on sale in May.


Rand McNally isn’t exactly new to this kind of enterprise. The company has made dashboard tablet systems available to big-rig and RV drivers since 2009. More recently, it has offered passenger-car-focused systems that exclude info primarily pertinent to truckers—bridge clearance stats, for example, or Hazmat restrictions—with 7.0- and 8.0-inch screens. However, the company points out that those systems are touch-screen only, and don’t have the range of capabilities of the OverDryve tablets, and according to R&D vice president Dave Marsh, those versions probably will be discontinued soon.


While OverDryve may seem superfluous compared to the sophisticated connectivity available in many contemporary cars, Marsh makes the case that such sophistication doesn’t usually extend to the lower end of the market, and that there are some 250 million cars on the road that predate the recent surge in connectivity. And for those retain fond memories of travels before the age of GPS, don’t worry; Rand McNally still sells million of Road Atlases every year, and has no intention of discontinuing this American icon anytime soon. “It’s the one print property that we still produce in quantity,” says Marsh. “It’s not going away anytime soon.”


2016 Chicago Auto Show Full Coverage


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