36 years later, the world's first map-based car navigation system is being honored as an IEEE Milestone.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has decided to award Honda with an IEEE Milestone for its Electro Gyrocator, which is largely accepted as being the first commercially available map-based car navigation system. Launched back in 1981, the awesomely named equipment developed in collaboration with Alpine and Stanley Electric was not a GPS since it did not rely on satellites to determine the position.

Instead, it took the shape of an inertial navigation system that used a helium gas gyroscope capable of detecting the direction the car was moving, while a bespoke servo gear attached to the transmission’s housing was in charge of figuring out the distance covered by the vehicle. With the information obtained from the direction and driving distance sensors, the equipment was able to calculate the approximate position of the vehicle.

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Needless to say, Electro Gyrocator was not able to provide turn-by-turn directions, but it was still a nifty tool to use and more efficient than conventional maps. Speaking of which, the transparent maps had to be tailor-made to the navigation system and were inserted in a slot and then displayed onto a six-inch cathode-ray tube monochrome illuminated screen. The CRT display provided adjustments for brightness, contrast, position, display scale, and position. The optional kit came bundled with a marking pen to allow the users make the necessary indicators, including the starting point.

The Electro Gyrocator tipped the scales at a hefty 9 kilograms (about 20 pounds) and was only offered on the second-generation Accord starting with August 1981 as a dealer option. It was hugely expensive as the equipment’s price represented almost 25 percent of the car’s value. Unsurprisingly, it was discontinued shortly thereafter.

The origins of Honda’s Electro Gyrocator are thoroughly detailed at the source link below.

Source: Honda

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