Renting a car with Hertz for the first time later in the year, so I thought I’d revisit the whole trip planning thing.
So you may recall that last year I shared a post on online journey planning and explained how transferring GPX files from my laptop to the hire company’s sat nav at the airport car pick-up area made me feel uncomfortable but saved me a lot of time during my trip.
Well, this year I am planning another trip and for the first time I am using Hertz as my car hire company (usually I use one of the cheaper alternatives but Hertz came out competitive for this trip and were one of only a few offering drop off at my preferred location).
So, I have planned my route in Bing Maps like I usually do (please refer to my earlier post but I use Google Maps to find locations and to plan journey times, but then I use Bing Maps to save my itinerary! Strange but that’s me!)
Hertz give the impression that their system is better than a standard sat nav, you will often find media articles referring to it as ‘award-winning’. Well, I immediately like the fact that it does Corridor Search, i.e. it can find establishments between destinations such as finding a petrol station on the way back to the airport; a feature that I often wish was available on Google Maps when used as a sat nav on my smartphone. So I was feeling optimistic.
I was going to phone Hertz and ask them if there is any way of preloading my destinations before I pick up the sat nav to save the hassle and embarrassment of before, but once I looked it up I saw that Hertz have their own sat nav system developed by Navigation Solutions, one of their subsidaries, called NeverLost and have supported online journey planning since 2008.
One can either plan the trip from scratch on the Hertz NeverLost website, or it advertises you can import from Google Maps or MapQuest. You can then either save this to their cloud and upload it once in the car (on larger interet connected cars/devices) or you can save to USB pen and plug it into the car’s sat nav on arrival.
I have ordered a compact car, so I am going for the USB option. Note that devices vary by car and country, e.g. the latest models in the US are made by Magellan whereas in the UK and Europe they are TomTom.
But if you can get past all of the approved media releases, you do find blog posts that are less favourable about the NeverLost system, for example Ken Walker at All Business who writes, ‘I don’t go anywhere without my handheld Garmin GPS so when I recently climbed into a Hertz Rental Car with a ‘NeverLost’ system, I had to pit them against each other. The Garmin wins, hands down! For the first test, I needed to pick up a cable from a local brand-name electronics store. My Garmin found 32 of them with the closest one being 3.2 miles from where I sat… the NeverLost found two, both over 30 miles away. When calculating a route, the NeverLost refused to acknowledge toll roads and rarely used freeways. It always wanted to send me on a back road. Garmin lets me choose between ‘Shortest Distance’ or ‘Fastest Time’.’
So have my holiday car hire sat nav problems been put to bed once and for all? Or should I just have bought a TomTom in WalMart like the advice on TripAdvisor when I first visited the Americas?
Well, let’s immediately push this further than advertised and try to load my destinations straight from Bing Maps to the NeverLost site.
So I tried copying and pasting the Bing share and embed URLs into the NeverLost import page and it didn’t work. I tried importing the GPX and KML but NeverLost only allows its own NVL file format to be directly imported.
Next I tried exporting the Bing information to KML and loading into Google Maps, which worked fine. Then following the tutorial from the NeverLost website, none of the Google URLs worked either!
It became pretty clear that the online instructions were for the old version of Google Maps and that the new one wasn’t playing ball, at which point I was most definitely starting to feel lost.
I couldn’t import my data into MapQuest, so I made up a few new points in there, followed the NeverLost tutorial and once again, fail. Feeling very lost indeed now!
I even tried going back to Google Maps Classic View but as soon as you load a ‘My Places’ map it reverts to the new one and NeverLost once again doesn’t recognise it.
So my experience of NeverLost online route planning has not been very good to say the least. This now leaves me with three painful options:
A – Manually enter each of my stops into the NeverLost website and hope the exported file then works when inserted by USB into the in-car device.
This is probably the cheaper and possibly quickest option but my confidence in a NeverLost process/tutorial working is now very near zero.
B – Purchase a sat nav with Brazilian maps loaded and import my original GPX file from Bing Maps prior to travel.
C – Upgrade my smartphone data plan to cover my trip and hope that I get a decent signal.
Or of course I could revert back to the good old paper map, or even as we used to do back in the 90s print off my set of driving instructions and try to read those whilst driving (not recommended for obvious safety reasons).
But the thing sat nav gives you is instant flexibility at no extra cost. If it is getting late I can skip one of my items from my itinerary. To do this with a paper map involves time and effort to calculate the new route and is quite hard in the dark.
So to conclude, I am disappointed that this process of uploading my planned route to a car hire company’s sat nav is still so unbelievably cumbersome. Can someone please just let me upload GPX or KML? Or offer an import from Google/Bing/Whoever Maps tool that actually works with the latest versions of those platforms. Or better still, can I have a kiosk that allows me to upload my files to the sat nav of my choice on pick up? Imgaine that rather than a sales guy doing his hardest to convince you to upgrade to a convertible sports car — which had I wanted I would have booked in the first place instead of a Ford Focus!
So, what will I do? In the short-term, probably option A and then either C or paper as back up. In the long-term, I still refuse to buy a sat nav because they date so quickly, because purchasing and updating maps for each country is no more cost effective than hire, and because here in the UK using Google Maps on my smartphone is usually as dependable and actually offers a far better service/product.