GPS devices are cheap, reliable and easy-to-use, but they’ve long been missing a dead-obvious feature: the ability to import a route or list of stops created on a computer. It’s far easier to plan a drive on Google Maps or MapQuest, where you can visualize the whole route and browse for cool pitstops, than it is to do so on a device’s small screen.
Fortunately, GPS makers are finally playing nice with the Web. Google Maps now has a "send" button that exports a destination of your choosing to your TomTom or Garmin unit, where it shows up alongside preprogrammed points of interest ("POIs" in GPS-speak). A site called takitwithme.com goes further, letting you export a group of POIs made with Google’s My Maps tool to Garmin units. You can put together your own itinerary or, since many My Maps are public, pull a list of, say, a local’s favorite lobster-roll joints before that drive to Maine. Mapquest.com offers the most complete solution, enabling you to export not just the stops but also the route between them. So you, not the device, can pick the path to follow.
1. Download and install Garmin’s free Communicator plug-in for your Web browser at garmin.com. The test page can tell you if it's installed properly.
2. Plug your GPS unit into your computer using a USB cable.
3. Go to mapquest.com, search for destinations you want to visit along the route, and design your trip.
4. Click the "send" button near the top of the MapQuest page, and choose "to GPS."
5. Rename the file, choose the "route" button, and hit "send."
6. Eject the device, restart it, and choose "tools" on the main screen. Hit the "my data" button, choose "import route from file," and select your route.
7. On the main screen, hit the "where to" button, and choose "routes" to find your drive.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.