Victor Haydin
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Must-Have Features and Best Practices in Creating Navigation Software for Vehicles

Discover the critical components of navigation systems and best practices experts use to build vehicle navigation software

March 20, 2019

10 mins read

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When was the last time you studied a map before hitting the road or asked a stranger which turn to take? Thanks to navigation systems, those days are long gone. Whether we’re doing the daily commute or on a faraway journey, modern navigation systems show us the best way across the city, help us avoid traffic, and keep us on track. If you’re considering using navigation systems in your business or are just wondering how they work, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, you’ll read about:

  • What navigation software is
  • Essential features of navigation systems
  • Business benefits of navigation systems
  • Best practices in creating navigation systems
  • How to create navigation software
  • Intellias experience building navigation software

What is navigation software?

Quite simply, navigation software helps drivers get from point A to point B. What’s not that simple, however, is the software itself, which is actually quite intricate. Navigation systems are becoming more advanced as voice guidance, live traffic reports, over-the-air updates, and point of interest (POI) search optimize the driving experience.

Everyone who has a smartphone or a car has probably used some navigation system. With 79 million vehicles expected to be sold globally in 2019, it’s not surprising that the automotive navigation market is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 5.2% from 2019 to 2022.

Essential navigation system features

Along with additional options, there are fundamental navigation system features that make driving efficient and safe. They include:

Must-Have Features and Best Practices in Creating Navigation Software for Vehicles

Let’s dig deeper into each of these features.

Route planning and waypoints

Planning a route is the easiest and most basic thing a navigation system should be able to do. Usually, a navigation system offers alternative ways based on your preference for the fastest, the cheapest, or the most convenient route. You can also choose to avoid borders, ferries, tolls, highways, etc. The system will guide you to the necessary lane as well as automatically reroute you if you deviate from the initial course. Some navigation systems allow adding up to 50 waypoints. Plus, you can usually see the history of your trips and choose to repeat them or backtrack.

Turn-by-turn directions

Having a navigation system voice your every turn might be somewhat annoying, but it’s immensely useful. Turn-by-turn directions include visual data on the screen along with voice instructions, so your attention can remain on the road. The system voices the direction of the turn, street names, and the distance to the next turn. It can also warn you about traffic congestion and toll roads ahead.

Offline maps

Unfortunately, you can’t always rely on a cell connection, especially when you travel to remote areas. So having an offline map is vital when you drive along unknown routes. Map updates ensure that the street you’re turning down still exists. And while offline maps don’t provide POIs or traffic reports, they can navigate you by showing the current position of your car according to the GPS tracker.

The core features of navigation systems are usually enough to find the best route to your destination, not miss an important turn, and still know where you’re going even if the cell signal is lost.

In-car navigation vs smartphone navigation apps

Now, we know what you’re thinking: Why bother with in-car navigation if you have Google Maps? Most drivers use smartphone navigation apps because their interface is more familiar and updates are automatic.

Must-Have Features and Best Practices in Creating Navigation Software for Vehicles

Source: The Manifest – The Popularity of Google Maps: Trends in Navigation Apps in 2018

But it’s not all that simple if you think about it. Your smartphone depends on internet connectivity and battery power, the screen is quite small, and you can get fined for using it in the car. The competition between in-car and smartphone navigation is fierce, but it doesn’t have to be. OEMs are trying their best to make in-car navigation more valuable for users than smartphone apps.

In a year or two, embedded navigation systems in smart vehicles are expected to grow more intelligent than phone apps. They will:

  • predict your next trip
  • take into account your driving habits
  • remember the most visited places
  • analyze notifications from other drivers
  • alert you about changing weather conditions, accidents, and traffic jams
  • show you the surroundings and the route in 3D

But instead of battling to find out if smartphones or in-car navigation systems are better, why not use them together? Door-to-door navigation combines both car and smartphone systems via Bluetooth and leads you to your final destination even after you’ve parked your car, taken a bus, or stopped at the mall. More than that, you can even connect your smart home to your car. How cool is that?

Read more: Find out how Intellias built a smart navigation system and route guidance for electric vehicles

The business benefits of navigation systems go beyond mere tracking

Knowing when you arrive at your destination is great, but knowing that you can take another route to save money is better. Quick delivery, fleet tracking, and cost-efficiency are the key benefits businesses look for when deciding on a navigation system. And yes, you should choose navigation software according to your business needs: the features of a system for commercial fleets will differ from the features in a family minivan.

In fact, 92 percent of truck drivers agree that truck-specific navigation improves safety. Moreover, specialized software will have a positive impact on business in general:

  • Drivers can choose better routes that fit the size of their vehicles and the cargo they’re transporting. Routes may differ for trucks with explosives or flammables and those with super-heavy loads.
  • A navigation system can show safe spots for resting, and truck drivers can make stops more often, as required by regulations.
  • An interactive map of gas stations can lead to better fuel management.
  • Avoiding truck-restricted routes and bypassing congestion and road accidents lets drivers deliver goods on time and save fuel.

As for non-commercial vehicles, benefits for users are clear: fewer miles/kilometers driven, driving assistance, avoiding fines and traffic tickets, route optimization and, as a result, less money spent on car maintenance and repair.

Major benefits of navigation software

Must-Have Features and Best Practices in Creating Navigation Software for Vehicles

That’s what we have at the moment. But the automotive industry is heading to the connected and autonomous future, and in-car navigation systems will become smarter.

Best practices in creating navigation systems

Must-Have Features and Best Practices in Creating Navigation Software for Vehicles

So far, we’ve learned about key features of navigation software and established that smartphone apps aren’t a threat to in-car navigation. Now, let’s see how Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies develop navigation software and what additional features they offer.

Built-in dashcams

Dash cameras in navigation systems can work the entire time you’re driving and serve as a source of evidence in court in case of accidents or any other trouble on the road. Or you can just use them to capture stunning landscapes while you’re traveling.

Voice assistance

While this function is quite common for today’s in-car systems, getting a computer to understand what you’ve said is quite a challenge. You’ve probably experienced the frustration of repeating a destination five times only for the system to direct you to the same street in another city.

Here’s a tip that will help solve this problem: You can use what3words in your navigation system to find any location in the world with three-meter precision. This service divides the world map into three-meter squares and assigns three random words to every square. Upon hearing them, the navigation solution can get you exactly where you need.  

Noise cancellation

In addition to understanding your voice instructions, advanced navigation systems have to make sure they can hear you no matter what: whether there’s an open window, children screaming in the back seat, or your spouse singing to your right (or left).

Lane guidance

Today’s navigation software best practices include driving assistance, which becomes more advanced with every new system developed. Top-notch car navigation systems alert you when you’re driving too close to the car in front or when you’re drifting out of the lane, specify which lane you should be in, and switch to camera view when you’re approaching your destination.

Platform compatibility and integration

The majority of high-end in-car systems can integrate with the web through apps and Bluetooth. So if your friend messages you an address, you can queue the destination to automatically transfer it to your car system when your phone connects to it. And when you park a few blocks away from your location, you can toss the destination to your phone again for pedestrian navigation.  

Natural language and landmarks

The mechanical emotionless voice and monotonous instructions of old GPS systems have bored everyone to death. Natural language in apps, systems, and automated customer support is the new normal. And to make navigation even more natural, modern systems include landmarks to give drivers more time to react. For instance, a navigator can instruct you to turn right at Victoria’s Secret and then change lanes to prepare for a left turn near the football field. Drivers can spot landmarks easier than signs (if they exist at all) and can get ready for the change of direction.

How to build navigation software

Automotive software providers have to follow trends and build smart AI-based cloud solutions to fit the requirements of modern connected and semi-autonomous vehicles. Wondering what creating a navigation system involves? Intellias will let you in on the development process.

Must-Have Features and Best Practices in Creating Navigation Software for Vehicles

Gather data

Geolocation is the core element of any navigation app. A car’s navigation system uses GPS to detect the current location of the vehicle via satellite. When GPS data is not available, the system uses data from the cellular network. The system can also take data from other connected devices and update information about traffic activity and road accidents.

Then, the system uses routing algorithms according to different scenarios: the fastest route, avoiding or including bad roads and highways, etc. The next step is allowing users to choose the route, add it to favorites, start navigation, and include the route in the destination queue.

Include personalization

Having a personal profile in your navigation system lets users keep a history of their trips and add favorites, landmarks, notes, and reviews. Personalization also creates a seamless experience across devices, from smart home systems to in-car navigation. It’s a good idea to integrate the navigation system with other apps like Google Calendar, Foursquare, and Spotify.

Add voice assistance

Simple turn-by-turn directions are a must. But how smart the voice guidance will be depends on the requirements and the developers’ expertise. If a vendor has experience with natural language processing (NLP), deep learning, and AI-based automotive solutions, the car navigation system can serve as a smart assistant that can not only navigate but also switch to other apps, make calls, record notes, and more.

Implementing UI/UX best practices

No matter how technologically advanced a navigation system is, no one is going to use it if it’s clumsy, illogical, and poorly designed. From an intuitive and all-encompassing user journey to catchy design elements, UI/UX professionals have to prepare an advanced tech solution.

Now that you’ve seen the tip of the navigation development iceberg, we’d like to show you what the finished product looks like in practice.

Read more: Find out how automakers deal with the challenges of autonomous driving

Intellias experience creating navigation software for vehicles

With sixteen years of experience providing automotive solutions for OEMs, Intellias is the leader among Tier 2 companies in Eastern Europe. Here are some of our navigation system solutions to prove it:

  • The Intellias team merged two public traffic APIs for a global provider of mapping solutions. The task included migrating development, testing, and delivery environments. As a result of successful cooperation, our customer decided to continue working with us and entrust us with their entire traffic data processing and API program.  
  • More than that, we’ve broadened our cooperation with this customer to build a responsive map rendering navigation service. The Intellias team working on this project has grown to 45 members. Thanks to our cooperation, performance of our client’s map rendering service has almost doubled.
  • Contributing to innovative automotive solutions, Intellias created a brand-new SDK that allows OEMs to build next-generation embedded navigation solutions. This IoT-centric SDK enables cloud-based cross-platform communication, over-the-air map updates, sensor data integration, destination predictions, and more. Our Netherlands-based customer was extremely pleased with the results.
  • We helped an ambitious Silicon Valley startup develop an ADAS for cutting-edge electric vehicles. Our engineers managed to deploy automatic braking, adaptive highlights, and smart battery consumption as part of the latest ADASIS v3 protocol.
  • One more ADAS we’ve worked on was for a UK-based auto manufacturer. Our cooperation started with five Intellias engineers extending our partner’s team. They designed and implemented a comprehensive, distraction-free human machine interface (HMI) that brings car navigation to the driver’s mobile device. Since the start of cooperation in 2016, our five-engineer team extension has grown into a self-sufficient product development team of 85 members.


Following the tendency toward autonomous and connected driving, in-car navigation goes far beyond simple guidance and route planning. From innovative tech features to clear UI/UX, building navigation systems requires expertise in creating next-generation automotive solutions — expertise that Intellias has.

Contact our automotive experts and get all your navigation system-related questions answered.

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