Most of us think of Rand McNally in terms of printed maps, meticulously detailed, regularly updated, and published annually in a large atlas covering the U.S. and Canada.

This is not surprising. Rand McNally invented the U.S. highway numbering system in 1917, and published Auto Chum, the progenitor of its famous Road Atlas, in 1924. The first full color Road Atlas rolled off the presses in 1960.

But like other publishing companies seeking survival in the 21st century, Rand McNally has embraced the digital age and applied it to its way-finding products. The latest example of that evolution is Overdryve, a digital tablet that will provide all the infotainment and connectivity features currently available in middle- to high-end vehicles, at prices generally lower than nav package options.

More significant, Overdryve makes these features available to owners of cars at the basic transportation end of the market, as well as to millions of older vehicles that pre-date comprehensive connectivity.

Dash Tablet

The heart of the Overdryve system is a dashboard tablet that handles navigation, based on Rand McNally’s vast database, as well as common infotainment functions such as hands-free telephony and reading text messages—all with hands-free voice activation, thanks to an integrated microphone. And it can download apps with the best.

The unit also includes an integrated camera, to record events in the traffic ahead, and also to furnish forward collision alerts. If the alert doesn’t keep you out of the collision, the camera records the accident—handy for insurance reports.

Another interesting feature is a lockout, to prevent streaming videos when the car is in motion, to keep kids, for example, from watching “Rise of the Lycans” while they’re driving. Also, for those generations who might have difficulty with the transition from Rand McNally’s printed Road Atlas, all the Atlas contents are baked into the tablet.

Three Sizes

The tablet employs an exterior GPS antenna, backed by an internal GPS chip to ensure satellite connectivity. There’s also a cord that connects to the vehicle’s radio (no satellite stations), plus an FM transmitter, as well as a 3-watt speaker, about three times the wattage of the average smartphone speaker.

A powerful 90 mm suction cup secures the mounting arm to the vehicle’s windshield. The tablet attaches magnetically to the arm, and is easily removable, to prevent theft. The tablet’s power source is the vehicle’s radio, and system installation will be handled by the retailers handling sales. Best Buy is the first to sign up for distribution, beginning in June.

There are three OverDryve tablet choices, each with increased capabilities. Rand McNally projects pricing to open at $399 for a 7-inch screen, $499 for an 8-inch surface and $599 for a 10-inch display. A tire pressure monitor (TPMS) function, entailing a glovebox transmitter and valve stem pressure gauges, is available as an option for $149, and there’s also a $99 rear-view camera option requiring additional installation. The system can also accommodate onboard vehicle diagnostics, OBD II, via Bluetooth, a $100 option.

Dash Cams

Another stand-alone feature Rand McNally will put on sale in May is a dash cam in three levels capable of trip recording (and later downloading same) from about six hours up to several days of travel with a time lapse function. The dash cams include GPS chips, and have 170 degrees of vision, wider than a GoPro, and for a little less money. Pricing ranges from $99 to $179.

Although the OverDryve is new, it’s not Rand McNally’s first foray into this type of enterprise. The company has sold dashboard tablets to big rig and RV drivers since 2009. More recently, it has offered car-oriented systems with bridge clearance info or Hazmat restrictions—with 7- and 8-inch screens via Amazon for $299 and $399, respectively.

However, the company points out that those systems are touch-screen—no voice command—and don’t have the range of capabilities of the OverDryve tablets. Also, the current car-oriented touch-screen systems will probably be discontinued soon.

And for those retain fond memories of navigating 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.


 

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