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Morpheous Road Pilot Review

4th April 2003

 Article by Dave Burrows

  

Morpheous have been well known for their speed camera detectors for quite some time now, and

 

recently Morpheous have taken this a stretch further for the standard Road Warrior drivers (aka engineers and sales fleets) and created an all singing and all dancing product called the Road Pilot.  We have the full review here.

 

I've been thinking of various ways on how to open the review, and I keep coming back to the same sentence.  This device is ground breaking, it's truly remarkable, it has everything a swiss army knife has in a knife, but in a GPS product.

 

Taking the Road Pilot out of the box, I saw a nice large gray scale screen which can be attached by a magnetic grip to the suction mount.  Everything I see on the Road Pilot is revolutionary, the screen is so thin, it's about the depth of a palm pilot, but there's no speakers on it ?  I checked the literature, sure enough it says voice notification, I take another look, and the speakers are on the windscreen suction mount!  Who'd have thought of this ?  

 

After taking the Road Pilot out of the box, the first thing on my list was to update to the latest firmware.  After all this is a speed camera detector, so you need the latest database.  Connecting this to the PC via the supplied USB cradle was quick and easy, downloading the update over the internet was simplicity.  Absolutely no problems whatsoever to report here.

 

So what does the Road Pilot do ?

The Road Pilot as I've already mentioned is a Speed Camera Warning System.  Not only does it detect for the latest GATSO's, but the literature says it detects ALL speed cameras. 

 

The Road Pilot has also some unique features that aren't on other GPS detection devices.  For instance it has information about collision hotspots (frequent accident locations) which are user selectable, Road Pilot also alerts you if you're driving past a school.  Don't forget that the government has enforced the use of lower speed limits and higher fines when speeding past schools or surrounding roads, this option is also user selectable.  All of these options allow you to configure the Road Pilot.  If you don't want to be notified, turn it off, it's that simple!

 

The Road Pilot isn't just a Speed Warning System, it also has a GPS status screen showing a map of the world showing where each satellite is, and the individual satellite strength which is something you would see on a normal GPS system, but not on a Speed Warning System. 

 

Road Pilot also gives you the options of plotting your own waypoints, and being notified of these when you're close to them.  You also have a GPS Track screen so you can see where your route has taken you, a trip computer showing how many miles you have travelled, a detailed Mileage screen showing business mileage, private mileage, commuting mileage and total mileage. 

 

A large compass is available on screen, a range pointer showing the range and direction to the nearest warning camera or waypoint, separate voice notification for cameras and waypoints, a very large speedo

It strikes me from what I see in the Road Pilot, that Morpheous have tried to take a Garmin handheld GPS receiver with track information, compass, pair this up with a full speed camera warning system, and on-board computer for the business traveller allowing them to keep track of their mileage and much more.

You'll see from the screens on the right Fig 1 gives you the speed read out, total mileage and trip computer with the option of resetting this to zero (with the 0000 button).  The compass shows top right with the range to the next camera and also the current time.

Fig 2 shows the full GPS information with Latitude and Longitude, Heading, Speed, Height, GPS fix mode (eg 2D or 3D fix), accuracy of GPS and the date and time taken from atomic clocks in the satellites, again with a compass and range distance.

Fig 3 shows the GPS Tracks showing you exactly where your routes have taken you.  Unfortunately there are no base maps supplied with the Road Pilot or optional, but it does give you a good indication that you've driven in the right direction, and comes with full zoom in and zoom out features.  Incidently the top bars are the warning bars you'll see filled when you approach a camera or waypoint.

Fig 4 shows the main Road Pilot menu.  This has icons along the top which are large enough for your fingers to press without pressing the wrong feature.  From left to right is the GPS status screen, Speedo/General info screen (Fig 1), GPS Track Screen (Fig 3), GPS Information screen (Fig 2), and Warning screen (Fig 4).  The Warning screen allows you to set a new speed camera warning (left icon), or a new way point (right icon).  The bottom options from left to right are Setup Screen 1, Setup Screen 2 and Exit.

The theme on all the Road Pilot screens is to give you as much information as possible whilst giving you all of the available options.

Fig 1

 

Fig 2

Fig 3

 

Fig 4

 

Configuration

One thing that is very important in all devices is how far can you configure it ?  Morpheous have made configuration painless and straight forward.  Online help guides you through each menu option telling you exactly what the feature does and what happens if you enable it or disable it, so no need to resort to the manual!  Actually the online help within the Road Pilot is so good, no paper manual was included apart from a brief introduction sheet showing the various screens we've covered above. 

Quite an impressive set of features are listed below that can be enabled and disabled.  You can also check the current Road Pilot firmware version, serial number, database and operating temperature of the Road Pilot.  Really Morpheous have thought of everything with this little device!

The Road Pilot includes:-

  • Ability to set volume of audible notification

  • Ability to set contrast for the screen

  • Selection of MPH or KPH for speed readouts

  • Analog or digital speedo

  • Ability to enable or disable voice notification which will give beeps instead

  • Set time and the ability to select country and whether you are in daylight savings time

  • Option of selecting the language to be displayed on screen

  • Enabling or disabling of the Mileage Manager

  • Setting of Mileage Data Length (allowing for oldest data to be overwritten)

  • Ability to set warning distance on Speed Cameras and Waypoints

  • Ability to enable warning of directional cameras/waypoints if cameras are on other side of road

  • Ability to enable display of directional cameras/waypoints if cameras are on other side of road

  • Auto Ranging changing the range distance for notification depending on speed you are travelling at

  • Speed Sensitivity allowing you not to be notified of cameras if you are below the correct speed limit

  • Ability to set Early Warning gives you an extra audible warning when entering range

  • Early Warning Speed Sensitivity allowing to be warned early if you are exceeding speed limit!

 

Speed Camera Detection

The Road Pilot really is an enhanced version of the Geodesy with touch screen.  We decided to throw the Road Pilot at our usual test routes for Speed Cameras which include fixed based GATSO's and we're pleased to say that the Road Pilot picked up all of these without fail.  When configuring the Road Pilot to see cameras on the other side of the road, and also in nearby roads, we found clusters of Speed Cameras on adjacent roads which we haven't seen before.  This feature is a good one as it gives you more knowledge about the Speed Cameras in the surrounding area.  One thing I really like about the Road Pilot is that it shows the correct speed limit against each camera, so if you suddenly come up against a warning that a camera is close by, and you're not too sure of the speed limit, then the Road Pilot will tell you.

 

The visual notification will show a GATSO sign on screen like the one on the right and it will then give a verbal notification

of the speed camera you are approaching with a recorded voice saying "Speed Camera Ahead", "Speed Zone".

 

Standard Speed Screens

The standard screens you will see are shown above.   You'll see the standard speed in digital or analogue format, with compass and range to to the next speed camera.  The black bars above each of the speed displays shows the proximity to the next camera.

 

 

Updating And Database Information
Road Pilot is provided with a desktop USB interface which enables you to access the full Morpheous database which is updated on a regular basis.  Free updates are included for the first 12 months after which the charge is 50 inc VAT a year.  The database is updated twice daily and covers England, Scotland and Wales with the following data:
  • Speed Cameras - UK, Holland & Belgium upgrade available, Germany (coming soon).
  • Collision Hotspots - UK
  • Schools - UK (coming soon)
  • Low Bridges - UK (optional)
  • Red Light Cameras - UK (optional)
  • Common 'Hand Held' Camera Sites - UK

Key Features of the Road Pilot

  • Large touch screen LCD for ease of use

  • Second generation GPS for extreme accuracy.

  • Collision hotspot warnings (user selectable).

  • Locates all speed cameras.

  • School safety alerts (user selectable).

  • Revolutionary RADAR Anti false alarming with RADAR option.

  • Uses USB interface as standard, using Internet to update

  • Modem Interface / Serial Interface and GPRS interface options.

 

Problems Found

Being used to Pocket PC screens for over 5 years now, I've been accustomed to the bright white displays giving great contrast in car.  One thing I found with the Road Pilot screen, although it had a green backlight that lit up, this could only be seen after dusk, and although you could change the contrast on screen, I found sometimes the Road Pilot was difficult to read especially in bright sunlight.  For the retail price, or a little more, I think a colour screen could be added to it to give you the best display available.  Battery life isn't an issue as this needs to be permanently plugged into the accessory socket, cost and size perhaps really is the only restriction here.  The Accessory socket plug I found to be a little too springy, and wouldn't stay connected for more than 30 seconds in both of my accessory sockets.  I managed to get around this by plugging it into a 4-way extension lead, but this really shouldn't be required. 

 

I also had some issues with the active antenna that is supplied pre-wired to the Road Pilot.  There's no way of removing this.  Most car windscreens will allow GPS signals to travel through, and seeing that the Road Pilot does come built into a windscreen suction mount, I would have hoped that this antenna would be unpluggable to reduce the amount of wires on the dashboard, but sadly not.  The problems I experienced with the Active Antenna were that when it antenna was placed on the dashboard in car created a swamp effect and knocked out the GPS signals on my other 4 GPS receivers, immediately switching the Road Pilot off rectified this, or by moving the active antenna onto the roof also resolved this.  This happens with other active antennas supplied with Re-Radiating antennas, so this didn't really surprise me too much, but was a minor annoyance until I worked out what was happening and how to resolve it.

 

Congestion Charge Zone Update

Morpheous have now released a new firmware version which has a number of improvements and enhancements, which are available now.  They are free and will be included automatically within Road Pilots on the next download.

  • London Congestion Charge Zone

  • Warning are given between 0700 and 1830

  • Warnings are not given at Weekends

  • RoadPilot will warn:
    - Approaching the CC Zone
    - On the boundary of the CC Zone
    - When in the CC Zone

  • Warnings of speed cameras take priority over CC Zone

  • Other enhancements include:
    - Demo mode is now temporary, Road Pilot automatically returns to normal mode after powered down.
    - You can now cancel the saving and deletion of waypoints.

 

Summary

Overall though, even with the problems experienced, I found the Road Pilot extremely useful, and a great tool.  For anyone that's travelling 100+ miles a day, you will certainly find this useful, not only because you have a full GPS Speed Camera Detection System (SDS), but you also have a complete mileage manager, waypoint and GPS Track system built into it.  Road Pilot is a sure winner in providing the amount of technical information it does to the driver, but it does come in at a higher price of 499.  If you compare it to the average GPS Speed Camera Detection Systems or Radar Detectors which retail at around 350-400 then the Road Pilot is around 100-150 more expensive, but it is packed with a lot of features!

 

If you're interested in a complete system, you really can't go wrong with the Road Pilot.

 

Conclusion

Manufacturers Website

http://www.roadpilot.com

Pocket GPS Reviewer

Dave Burrows

Pocket GPS Reviewer Website

Dave Burrows.com

Rating

 

Construction

Installation

Useability

Robustness

Overall Rating 95%

How did we achieve these ratings ?

Review Ratings

   

 

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