By Mark Taylor
January 16th, 2009
It was back in April 2006 that I first reviewed satellite navigation software for Brazil: GPS in Brazil which covered Destinator PN, one of the first satellite navigation programs released with Brazilian maps. Since then, and perhaps inevitably, the satellite navigation market has somewhat exploded in Brazil.
In terms of reviewer bias, I’m a huge fan of satellite navigation systems (or satnavs) which for the most part take a lot of the stress out of driving both for business and pleasure. I remember holidays abroad being painful affairs that required reading strange foreign maps and spending plenty of time getting lost. The introduction of satnavs has made me far less concerned about going off the beaten track, and conversely made some holidays a far more pleasant experience. But before I sound too much like a marketing brochure I should stress that they still have their own little foibles e.g. when you can’t get a sufficiently strong satellite signal, or when routes have changed but the maps haven’t. Even so they are still one of the best pieces of technology so far in the noughties.
In the previous article I lamented the lack of TomTom‘s entrance into the Brazilian satnav market, primarily because TomTom were offering one of the best core programs in terms of usability and interface. Things have not changed much in almost 2 years and TomTom are still arguably at the head of the pack, so I was happy to see around the middle of last year that TomTom released their dedicated devices with preloaded maps in Brazil. I was even happier to see in December that they released downloadable maps for Navigator, their PDA/mobile product which is the platform I prefer to use. Although I’m away from Brazil most of the year I did have a chance to visit São Paulo state in mid-December, so it was an ideal opportunity to try out the map.
For those who aren’t familiar with TomTom at all, it’s typical of most satnav programs in that it offers a 3D view while driving, spoken directions, 2D maps, and various other features, such as points of interest. Where TomTom tends to excel is that both the 3D view – which you spend most of your time using – and other features are a good balance of simple yet useful.
In practise the Brazil map was a similar experience to those I’ve used elsewhere. For the most part the map was accurate and informative. I already had some points of interest installed e.g. speed cameras, so I am unsure which actually came with the TomTom map (if anyone can advise on that I would be curious to know). A tip for those that use it, that Rua is shortened to R”, and Avenida is shortened to “Av”, although Alameda is still “Alameda”.
It wasn’t all gravy though. There were two major errors that would crop up repeatedly in São Paulo city:
1. Suggesting U-turns could be made, typically in avenues, when it was not actually possible or prohibited.
2. Suggesting left-hand turns, again typically onto avenues, when it was prohibited.
Both the above would be a pain for a relatively savvy driver who was used to Brazilian roads, but could lead to an accident in extreme circumstances for those who are not so savvy.
Ironically though while writing this review I received an email from TomTom that stated “na versão 8.15 2095, que foram baixados nas ltimas 6 semanas de 2008 podem apresentar erros de navegaão, em particular sugerindo de virar ou fazer curvas e retornos em lugares não permitidos.” (in version 8.15 2095, that was downloaded in the last 6 weeks of 2008, there were navigation errors, in particular that suggest you can turn or make U-turns in places that are not permitted). The instructions then stated to download the latest map in TomTom Home.
So hopefully TomTom have spotted the above problems and corrected most if not all of them, particularly due to their serious nature for drivers unfamiliar with Brazilian roads. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has the map update.
The only other problem I experienced seemed to be due to “map fidelity”, as when travelling to the countryside I purportedly came off the toll road, according to TomTom, and was driving in a neighbouring field. This happened for sufficiently long that it didn’t seem to be a satellite error, and more so a slight error in the location of the toll road. Not a showstopper, but again it might have proved confusing for an inexperienced driver.
Two caveats with the review:
1. I was only using TomTom in and around São Paulo city. I would certainly be interested to hear from others who use TomTom elsewhere in Brazil, as one of the useful features of TomTom is a fully integrated Brazil map, that doesn’t require map changes while driving across the country.
2. TomTom is not the only satnav product out there. Garmin is another manufacturer that I frequently see recommended, along with STI, and Airis, although I have not had a chance to try these. I am sure there are others, and it will pay to shop around. Again, if I can ask readers to let us know their experiences, either good or bad.
Have a look into the following link, if you do not know it already.
I am using it and it works very well (and its free of charge)
I bought my husband a TomTom for Christmas and let him open it early as we planned a trip to Paraty with our daughter and have only lived here for 4 months. Like you experienced, we did have a few “turn left” on a one-way street to the right and “make a u-turn” where we weren’t able to. For the most part it was very helpful though and we still use it all the time as it has freed us up to go places while we still don’t have a great command of Portuguese. One thing though. On our way to Paraty, it took as down a dirt road which took us about 1 1/2 hours to go 7 K. Now, for my daughter and I, this was a great adventure but my husband was thinking that we might tear the bottom out of our new car! Then, while all the way down that dirt road, the TomTom knew exactly where we were going, as soon as we got to Paraty, it went off the grid and we kept having to ask Brazilians how to get to our hotel. Also fun, but not to good when your Portuguese stinks. Thanks for the review!
TomTom is a Johnny come lately to Brazil and there are no user generated maps available to the best of my knowledge.
As a Canadian ExPat I brought my first Garmin GPS MAP 12 here with me and struggled with the Garmin map that was available way back then. (9 years ago)
Last year I upgraded to a Garmin GPSmap 60cx and downloaded FREE peer user created maps that are vastly superior to anything Garmin has. The detailed maps are simply amazing with certainly every city over 2,000 population detailed especially in Southern Brazil including street names.
Here is a reliable source of Free Maps for Brazil which are frequently upgraded as more detail is collected:
Recent forays into Uruguay and Argentina were also accomplished by the maps provided by another Peer user group in Argentina:
Admittedly the Garmin Map source and Track source are a pain to work with, but the end result is well worth it.
As a 72 year old unilingual Gringo these maps are a life saver on all my motorcycle travels throughout South America. Even locals can read my units maps and they are always a great conversation starter.
Just to let you know, I am using a TomTom unit that I bought in Canada last November, and into which I downloaded the Brazil map. It served us well when we took a trip to the colonial towns of Minas Gerais in December. Navigating around Tiradentes and Ouro Preto was a breeze with our TomTom unit telling us where to go. However, we too found ourselves driving through a virtual field for quite some time when we turned off the Fernao Dias towards Tiradentes. It couldn&rsquot;t have been a satellite error, as it went on for the entire distance of the road. The condition of the road was ample evidence of the fact that it had been there for a while – long enough to show up on satellite images, I would think – so newness of the road can&rsquot;t be the explanation.
That and the occasional side-slip, i.e., when TomTom tells me I am a block over to the left from where I know I am, simply points out that GPS too is not a perfect technology. However, it works well enough to give me considerably more confidence to drive around São Paulo and Brazil in my own car.
If you have a comment on Mark’s article or would simply like to contact him then email email@example.com.
Previous articles by Mark:
Around Brazil: Boiucanga
Brazil: São Paulo – The Forgotten City
Brazil: Enough of the “Estrangeirismos”
Understanding Brazil: Sense of Humour
Brazil: The “Turistas” Storm in a Teacup
Understanding Brazil: Christmas and New Year’s Traditions
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 5
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 4
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 3
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 2
Brazil: An Interview with Marcia Loebick
Brazil: 14 Bis Centenary Part 2
Brazil: Google Maps Gets an Upgrade
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 1
Brazil: 14 Bis Centenary Part 1
Brazil: Daylight Savings Time
Brazil: Carjacking and Theft
Brazil: Airport Delays Grow Among Crash Speculation
Brazil: São Paulo&rsquot;s International Film Festival (and The Fountain)
Brazil: Single Gringo Beware!
Brazil: The House of Coffee Comes Home
Brazil: Film Review
Brazil: The Portuguese Language Museum
Brazil: Election Time! Part 2
Brazil: Election Time! Part 1
Brazil: Torrent TV
Brazil: Book Review
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 2
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 1
The PCC Shows a New Level of Organisation
Brazil: Trading Places
Brazil: São Paulo&rsquot;s Pinacoteca
Brazil: Don&rsquot;t Forget, You&rsquot;re in Another Country!
Brazil: PCC Violence Returns to São Paulo
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 5
Brazil’s World Cup Defeat Party
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 4
Brazil: Japanese Standard Chosen for Digital TV
Brazil: NET Petition Feedback
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 3
Brazil: Football Love
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 2
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 1
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 3
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 1
GPS in Brazil
Brazil: PCC Attacks in São Paulo
Brazil: Tips on Buying or Renting an Apartment or House
Brazil: A Critical Sensitivity
Cleanliness is next to Brazilianiness
Brazil: No Change, No Sale
Brazil: Professional Children
Brazil: We deliver… everything!
Brazil: Terrao Itlia
Brazil: A Layman&rsquot;s Carnival Guide
Brazil: Portunglish or Engluguese?
Brazil: Feira Food
Brazil: Bilhete Unico flexibility increases
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: U2 Ticket Chaos
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: Queues, Queues, Queues
Brazil: Let&rsquot;s Go Fly a Kite!
Brazil… the Film That Is
Brazil: The Bus to Nowhere
Brazil: Proclamation of the Republic
Brazilian Film Review
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)
Interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil&rsquot;s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN