Car owners who love to customise their chariots can now add a satellite-based navigation system with maps of the whole of Singapore
Navigation system tells you which turn-off to take Any car that has space for a radio can be fitted with a satellite navigation console like this unit by VDO Dayton [car interior]

CAR owners who love to customise their chariots can now add a satellite-based navigation system with maps of the whole of Singapore.

The in-car system - priced from $2,500 to $6,000 - was launched yesterday by VDO Singapore, a unit of German electronics giant Siemens.

The system comprises a matchbox-sized sensor to receive signals from satellites in the Global Positioning System (GPS) network, a postcard-size colour display and a CD-Rom player to store the maps.

VDO Singapore now aims to produce CD-Rom road maps of Thailand and Malaysia to go with the one for Singapore drivers.

The system was developed by VDO Singapore, car maker BMW and two mapping specialist, Belgium-based TeleAtlas and Singapore-based GEO Millenium System.

It guides drivers by combining inputs from the GPS receiver, a gyroscope and a car's speedometer to pinpoint its location to within 10 metres - even when it is moving in tunnels or on flyovers. By combining this information with the CD-Rom map, a driver can use the system for route planning and for guidance along their journey.

As a safety feature, the system uses voice guidance to prompt the driver, reducing the need to glance at the screen while driving.

From this month, new BMW 7-series saloons will come fitted with a customised version of the system.

The project started in 1996 and was helped along the way by a grant from the Economic Development Board's innovation development scheme.

VDO Singapore spent about $3 million developing the system, with the other partners contributing a further $3 million. Despite the economic slowdown, VDO Singapore hopes to recoup its investment within two years.

Lim Ching San, chief executive officer of GEO Millenium System, said: "This launch represents the advanced stage of our digital mapping technologies. The scope and blueprint for further development in software and mapping are firmly in place. We are ready to move outside Singapore now."

VDO Singapore's managing director Stefan Deffur said: "This system represents a significant step forward in transforming the Singapore transportation system to one that is not just world standard, but world-leading."