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from 1996 ...



John and Cheryl Mind that car ! John and Cheryl pose for a picture... John Silvester of the Berkshire Driving School is developing a computer based aid to assist him give lessons to learner drivers, including those in heavy goods vehicles. He is fitting out the boot of his car with computer, printer and GPS equipment. The first trials went very well in late October, and within a few days he was being interviewed on the local radio station. This followed a piece that appeared in the national Sunday Telegraph newspaper based upon the faxed press release below. John and Robin are now refining the system, based upon the GPSS software, and the basic capability is available in the new release GPSS v4.1. A more comprehensive package of software is expected to be announced early next year. Cheryl Warner is a neighbour and friend of Robin's daughter Saskia - and kindly stepped in when Saskia hid from the camera ! Saskia is taking driving lessons from John, and risks becoming a guinea pig for future trials of the new system.

The Press Release ...

It had to happen sooner or later .. .. the computer has appeared in a driving school car, and appears to be looking over the shoulder of the Instructor. At the end of the lesson the computer actually speaks, and informs the Pupil exactly where, when, and what they did wrong : “Use of mirror near entrance to Armitage Court at 10:15”. It even has the nerve to suggest how their driving might be improved : “Why don’t we try and practise those hill starts that you made such a mess of last week ?”. It also prints out these ‘back seat’ comments, for the pupil to take away. How does it work ? - no ‘black magic’ - just the latest GPS satellite technology, that lets the PC computer know its position, second by second to within 1 metre, and some very clever software. The computer remains silent during the lesson - thankfully ! - until the Instructor tells it to speak.
The Instructor touches the computer’s screen to tell it what the pupil is doing wrong. The computer saves this for the end of the lesson, together with its knowledge of the time and precisely where the car was, received from its GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver. Over a million copies of this software have been distributed in the UK on PC Magazine CD-ROMs, and it is now being distributed all over the World. It is intended for use on Notebook PCs used ‘on the road’ connected to GPS receivers - now appearing in the high street shops at less than £200. ‘Car-computers’ are already appearing that can fit into any car, and use the software to find places and guide you to them. It does this by showing your position on a map, but also speaks to tell you where you are : “we are 25 miles west of London and in Sunninghill” and guide you to the selected place : “destination Esso filling station, 300 yards ahead at your 11 o’clock” - it gives direction as if to a Fighter Pilot. Robin Lovelock - who created the software - is now experimenting, in collaboration with John Sylvester of a local driving school, to see if the same software can be of value to driving instructors. Tests have just started in the Ascot area, and it is possible the results will be televised early in 1997. The software, called GPSS, has been on Television ten times so far, often being used for unusual applications - such as a Falconer finding his birds, or the police tracking a stolen luxury sports car. The software continues to be given away to the public on magazines like ‘Personal Computer World’. All the latest information is kept up to date on the Internet Web page If you do not have easy access to ‘The Net’, and want to know more about GPS or where you can get a free copy of the GPS Software, you can always ring Robin Lovelock of Sunninghill Systems on 01344 20775. Robin is always pleased to hear from people who have found a new use for GPSS - sometimes it creates publicity or leads to new business.

A Press Conference is planned for January 1997.

For the more technical reader ...

How It Works

The illustration above shows the equipment used for recent trials on the GPSS software extentions for the 'Driving School' application. Many alternative hardware configurations could be used - including just a Notebook PC computer and GPS receiver. Use of differential GPS (DGPS), providing position to 1 metre accuracy permits reliable description of position when landmarks are relatively close, as in urban areas.
e.g. "Speed between Lloyds Bank and the Zebra Crossing on Ascot High Street".
In country areas, with landmarks more widely spaced, position may be less critical.
e.g. "Mirror between the Wheatsheaf Pub and Royal Holloway College on A30".

The same equipment can be used to 'recce the route' and collect the positions of landmarks needed by the software. Alternatively the data may be extracted from existing and new databases such as those from Ordnance Survey in the UK. Road centreline data is used for the GPSS software to recognise what road it is on, for inclusion in the description of position.

The equipment used for trials included:

The main issues being finalised before release of the software in January 1996 are:

Sunninghill Systems supply only software, but provide free, objective advice on the selection of suitable hardware for use with the software.

Footnote in July '97 : Saskia passed her driving test. John has his new car with special plate PAS5X. All issues of GPSS now include this capability.