Hummingbird Electronics is making road management tasks more efficient through its accurate and easy-to-use in-vehicle speed and distance measurement devices – the GPS Trip Meter series.
From the launch of eBay to South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup – 1995 was a year of firsts, including a major step forward for in-vehicle navigation.
That same year, the General Motors’ GuideStar system – the first ever GPS navigation system for a production vehicle – was included on the 1995 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight.
It was the first true ‘plug-and-play’ tool to direct the average vehicle owner to their location without resorting to the often cumbersome physical map.
GPS systems have been the saving grace for countless road trips since their introduction for public consumption. For Mark Bruce, Hummingbird Electronics National Sales and Marketing Manager, the ‘plug-and-play’ characteristic of GPS is still king more than two decades later. It is also what sets Hummingbird’s GPS Trip Meters apart from the other GPS navigation and electronic distance measurement devices for local government workers and road maintenance staff.
“Historically, electronic distance measurement devices for civil applications have been installed in the vehicle where it needs to tap into the vehicle’s speedometer, which can mess with the system if done incorrectly. Often, it’s best to get a professional to the job,” Mr. Bruce explains.
“With vehicles becoming more complicated, it’s hard to install these kinds of devices into a vehicle without issues. You have to tap into the vehicle electronics and this can hinder vehicle performance and usability.
“Our product is totally independent of the vehicle electronics. It can be connected via USB port or cigarette lighter connector and there are no complex installations needed – it’s plug and play.”
Utilising the location pin-pointing benefits of GPS that lend themselves to road maintenance tasks, the HMGT1000C GPS Trip Meters have become a legacy product for the manufacturer, having supplied the national market for a number of years.
The device takes advantage of both the American GPS and Russian GLONASS satellite networks to triangulate a vehicle’s speed and distance to achieve high-precision measurements. As a result, the device provides the operator with a visible and configurable distance readout, independent of the vehicle.
“It’s ideally used for council fleets and civil contractors as well as any road authorities around Australia for measuring out road distances for where to put road signs or marker cones for road works and/or to record events. So, it’s perfect for measuring out road distances or locating areas that require minor or major road repair,” Mr. Bruce explains.
The device is designed for harsh automotive environments, with integrated buttons and a LCD graphics display showing the operator up to two displayed trips, as well as current speed and the number of satellites being used in real-time.
Mr. Bruce says the ability to track 20 satellites from the GPS and GNSS constellations simultaneously with enhanced receiver sensitivity and active antennas result in fast time-to-first-velocity calculations as well as the ability to operate in difficult radiofrequency (RF) environments, such as valleys, forestry and cities.
He says the HMGT1000C can achieve three-dimensional velocity calculations accurate to 0.36 kilometres per hour and are updated 10 times per second, adding that best accuracy is achieved when the vehicle is moving faster than two kilometres per hour.
“What they can do is measure while on the fly. The operator can use a hand trigger to freeze the measurement record and unfreeze it again instead of resetting,” Mr. Bruce explains.
The trip distance continues to be calculated in the background while the display measurement is frozen and will catch up to the vehicle when the operator presses the button again.
Likewise, if a speed error occurs in RF blackout zones such as tunnels, the distance lost is compensated for by adding in straight-line-distance once satellites become visible again.
Trip statistics such as average speed, maximum speed and trip time can also be viewed via the devices’ integrated menu.
For the staff at Roads & Maritime Services New South Wales Ballina, the HMGT1000C has been used extensively in its maintenance vehicles.
“We’ve been using them for about eight years and almost all of our vehicles are fitted with one,” an RMS Ballina spokesperson said.
“We’ve picked them because they’re really easy to use. All of the highways and the work on them are done in segments – the road signs are maintained in segments and they’re all done in measurements, so these are ideal. “It’s just about as easy as you can get – you’re not using ones which are hardwired to the speedometer.”
While the HMGT1000C GPS Trip Meter has been a stalwart addition for road maintenance operations such as those in Ballina, Mr. Bruce says the Hummingbird Electronics research and design team continues to improve on the benefits it can provide for the civil market.
“It’s been a popular choice for a number of years because it’s so easy to install but also to operate. It’s old-school and it’s been our go-to for councils forever, but as we move into the modern world we’re finding new ways to enhance the devices’ capabilities.”
To address the changing requirements of the civil market, the business has introduced two new models in the range – the HMGT3000 Active Model and the HMGT8000B Elite Model.
The Active Model adds the advantage of preloading trips quickly and easily through a numerical keypad on the touchscreen, while the Elite Model includes these benefits and more. “The HMGT8000B allows you to program up to eight independent trips on the screen and they can even be uploaded to Google Maps,” Mr. Bruce says.
The Elite Model features a ball-bank, which allows the operator to measure a roads’ superelevation – the amount by which the outer edge of a curve on a road or railway is banked above the inner edge.
It also gives the operator the ability to log events, including the date, time and GPS location. “For a maintenance crew locating fallen trees or roads that might require minor or major repair work, the operator can drop a pin on the map where that has occurred,” he says. The relevant positions, trips and noted objects are then saved to internal memory for download later via USB.
Mr. Bruce says the manufacturer is also working on adding a cone positioning mode to the latest trip meter, giving councils and contractors a tool to accurately place cones at required locations. “Think of it as being the most cost-effective mode of measuring distances. Nothing else can really compare for repetitive accuracy,” he says. “The fact that it’s also locally designed, manufactured and supported means that any questions that someone might have are directed locally and going straight to the manufacturer.”