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Hertz Will Install Talking Navigators

July 10, 1996|From Reuters

NEW YORK — Forget the map on vacation. Let the computer talk you there.

Hertz Corp. said Tuesday that it will install at least 7,500 Rockwell Automotive talking computers that will direct drivers to their destinations.

The deal, worth an estimated $23 million, will make Rockwell's NeverLost navigators a common feature in Hertz rental cars in 16 cities, allowing customers to reserve them for an extra $6 a day in mid-size to luxury cars.

Atlanta is the first city to receive them, with more than 500 units available for the Summer Olympics that begin July 19. Hertz will then install the navigators in Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Seattle.

Most of the navigators initially will be in cars at airports, where out-of-town customers are most likely to need directions. But Hertz hopes that is only the beginning.

"When auto manufacturers start offering them as options on vehicles, they will have a big impact," said Tom Theisen, product line manager at Rockwell Automotive in Troy, Mich.

The navigator includes a 4-inch color screen between the driver and front passenger seats that shows the driver where to go. A computer-generated voice announces each turn to make to get to thousands of places within a certain geographic area.

If a wrong turn is made, the computer, which picks up signals from a satellite navigation system, beeps and tells the driver how to get back on track.

"It's like having a co-pilot in the seat next to you," said Robert Bailey, Hertz senior vice president.

More units will be added to Hertz's fleets in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Washington.

Despite the high cost of the computers, Hertz doesn't expect the project to earn big bucks, Bailey said. "We are trying to provide a service to keep the loyalty of our customers," he said.

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