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 Off-Road Navigation in Israel (updated links)
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igurevich38

USA
764 Posts

Posted - 22 avr. 2004 :  21:30:02  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
GPS Assisted Navigation in Israel
with Off-Road Software

(Road Software review here)




Updated 05/05/2006

There are now 3 Off-Road products for PPC avilable for Israel with Israeli Topographic maps:
1) Skipper - http://www.benchmark.biz/
2) Naviguide - http://www.navngo.co.il/
3) Navigator Off-Road 4x4 - http://www.carpc.co.il/EN/




This is a summary of my last 2 trips to Israel and getting around there using OziExplorer and raster calibrated maps.

Being not able to buy Israeli Destinator 3, I decided to use regular scanned raster maps calibrated in OziExplorer.

Setup:

My complete setup in the car was as following:

Axim X5 with 256 MB SD Card
Haicom 303MMF CF GPS Receiver
OziCE
Portable Car Adapter fro Axim
Regular window Axim holder with a suction cup
Detailed road and street maps of Israel loaded on the 256 MB card in OZIF2 format.
No external antenna

I brought everything with me from the US and set it up in the rental car.

Trip Summary:

My trips were as following:

1) Go from the Ben Gurion Airport to the Hotel in Haifa
2) Drive around Haifa for 4 days, including Rechasim and Kfar Chasidim
3) Go from Haifa to Akko
4) Drive around Akko for 1 day
5) Go from Akko back to Haifa
6) Drive from Haifa to the Golan near the Syrian border to a small settlement called Keshet
7) Drive from Keshet to Tiberias for 1 day
8) Drive from Tiberias to Zefat for 1 day
9) Drive from Zefat to back to Haifa
10) Go from Haifa to Jerusalem
11) Drive around Jerusalem for 2 days
12) Go from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv/Yaffo
13) Drive around Tel Aviv/Yaffo for 1 day, including Rishon LeTziyon and Ramat Gan
14) Go from Tel Aviv/Yaffo back to the Ben Gurion Airport

I did not visit any particularly dangerous areas like the Gaza Strip or certain parts of the West Bank.

Navigation Summary:

Navigating around with OziCE was great. Most of the time I was using the 50% zoom so that I could see a large portion of the map and still be able to read the names of major roads. I set it so that it would draw a red track as I am driving. This way even if I would get lost on my way to the destination, on the way back I could just follow the track and find my way easily. I would put waypoints in every spot that I would either need more than once or I just wanted to see as a marker in order not to miss a turn.

I did not do any preplanning on my PC to create routes in most case, with a couple of exceptions and really regret it. Even though I could see where I was, I got lost multiple times since I didn’t know where I should be going next. When I actually did preplan a route and marked every single turn with a waypoint on the PC and then uploaded it to PPC it was very easy to navigate, but of course it required some time the day before to plan. I have had some trouble saving waypoints in OziCE for future use (see my other post), but overall I had them when I needed them. This is another reason to preplan on the PC. All your data would be safe and sound for later.

Driving in Israel is very similar to driving to Europe, and in my opinion is much easier than driving in New York City, in terms of crazy drivers. One thing that is very different from driving in the US is city planning and terrain.

Terrain:

Although Israel a small country it has every possible type of terrain in a very short distance. If you would drive from the Dead Sea to Haifa and avoid the West Bank, which is about a 3 hour drive on the highway, you would cross a desert, huge mountains, little hills, complete flat roads along the beach, drive through a few small towns, as well as 4 lane highways. So if you see a straight road on the map it’s an illusion. And a 40 km drive which in the US in a place like Pennsylvania or California (not in traffic) will take about 20 minutes, in Israel can take 1-2 hours depending on how many mountains you would have to cross and how many extremely steep turns you would have to make. For example, in the Upper Galilee on the way to Tiberias most turns as you go down the mountain are really U turns on the same road and if you’re driving in the fog, which is very common you may need to drive at about 20 km/hour, especially if youhave never been there before.

As far as preplannig for the terrain Ozi 3D would very helpful just to get an idea of what kind of drive you would have to go through. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good DEM model for Israel. The only DEM that’s available for free on the web is GTOPO30 which uses 30 Arcsec steps and is not accurate enough expect to get a basic idea of the terrain.

City Planning:

There is no one city in Israel that is designed on a grid like many American cities. All streets curve and don’t come out where you may expect them to be. Also, most cities are built on top of hills, on very steep slopes, so a street may be going down or up hill, although on the map it may appear that it’s going just to the next block. Besides all of this a very large number of streets are one way and dead ends, something that in America is not very common (besides Boston and San Francisco, of course).

If you get lost, just trying turning around on the next street may be a complete mistake and will just get you more lost. This is where I found the GPS to be extremely important. Since I could always see where I was and where it was leading me, even if I took the wrong turn, I would quickly find out that I need to turn back and go a different way. Without the GPS I would just keep on going and by the time I would figure out that I was lost it would too late, and I would have no way of knowing how to get back.

GPS Signal Quality and Reliability:

I did not experience any GPS signal loss anywhere. But paper maps were still of extreme importance. I had with me MAPA Road and Street Atlas of Israel 2004, which contains detailed street maps and major roads of all of Israel. CARTA makes one as well, but it’s not as good in terms of maps quality. This is a must buy as soon as you land in Israel right in the airport (all book stores carry them), and don’t be cheap to pay about $35 for it.

Since I didn’t preplan many of my routes, I could not keep panning on the tiny PPC screen to see what the next few turns were. So I had the atlas open to the big map and would constantly keep checking it every time I would be stuck at a red light, while the PPC was showing me where I was and just the next turn or two. If there would be 2 people in the car it would be really helpful to have the second person holding a laptop and a big map open so you can see a lot more.

I tried using my GPS in the PCMCIA slot of my laptop, but since it was sitting low on the seat it could never pick up a signal, and I didn’t bring with me an external antenna. I couldn’t use the Serial cable (which is long enough to put the GPS on the dash board) because my laptop doesn’t have a PS2 port which Haicom needs to get power, and of course I forgot to bring a PS2 to USB converter. So the laptop wasn’t really an option.

Map Quality:

Israel is a very rapidly developing country. A lot of places, buildings, streets have been built in just the passed few years, so it’s very critical to have the latest maps. The map I was using was from 2003, with data probably from 2002. And still there were a few places where the map said there was a through street and in reality the street was gone because a new building was built across it and it was rerouted. In other cases there simply were streets that were not on the map. This is applicable to pretty much the whole country and not just particular areas.

If you’re using Topographic maps (either Soviet from 1991, or Israeli from 1999) then it’s not as critical to have the latest ones, because the terrain itself has not changed much. In the Golan there a lot of places which still have mines left over from the 1967 war, and they are always marked off by a fence with signs, but you still have to be careful and stay on clear paths.

Available Maps:

There are a few map options for Israel that can be either downloaded online for free or purchased for a relatively low price. This is not a complete list, but these are good examples. For a more complete list see the World GPS Map Database http://www.gpspassion.com/forumsen/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=6499.

Soviet Military Topographic Maps from 1991 in Russian (Free):


(click to enlarge)

Carta Street Atlas from 1999 in Hebrew (~$50):


(click to enlarge)

Israeli Government Topographic Maps from the 1990s in Hebrew (~$200):


(click to enlarge)

Check Points:

Due to the situation in Israel, the police and the army can setup random check points on highways (or any road) anywhere in the country, if they have a terrorist threat. Typically the way they do it is they would close all lanes on the highway except for one, forcing all cars to move over into that lane and then they would look inside each car as you drive by very slowly, but they will not pull you over or even ask for IDs. But some times they may ask for IDs as well. This can create a huge traffic jam. I got stuck in one of these in the middle of Haifa for an hour. In the West Bank and Gaza this is completely different, because there are a lot more of them and you actually do get pulled over and asked for your ID.

This is where preplanning with GPS gets even more important so you don’t waste any extra time by getting lost. Also, listening to the radio is very helpful to avoid these, although then you would need to know Hebrew.

CARTA has published a special map for the West Bank and Gaza in 2001, both in English and in Hebrew which contains all permanent road check points, danger areas and a tone of critical phone numbers and info about the situation. This is the only map out there with this type of info and eventhough it’s 3 years old, it’ still a great thing to have. I am currently working on calibrating this map and hope to have the calibration files posted. The map itself is copyrighted, but if you purchase it then you can scan it yourself and then use these calibration files.
You can buy the English map here from Israel: http://www.carta.co.il/yesha.html
Or from here from the US: https://www.eisenbrauns.com/ECOM/_17X0UFV1U.HTM
The Hebrew map can only be purchased from Carta in Israel

Here is a sample section of this map:


(click to enlarge)

Directions:

There are a few Israeli web sites that create driving directions. These are good to use for preplanning.

http://www.emap.co.il
http://maps.nana.co.il
http://maps.walla.co.il/
http://www.yp.co.il/?arena=&language=HEB&page=Integration-Map&previousPage=Home
http://www.atlas-israel.co.il

Most Israelis speak English and are very friendly, so as long as you’re not in some unsafe area you can stop and ask for directions. But, be careful, because to an Israeli the directions are always very simple, and they tend to explain everything that you need to go straight here and straight there, where as in reality “straight” means going along many hills and very curvy streets.

GPS Awareness:

Israel is a very technologically advanced country, and most Israelis are very technologically advanced, including the army and the police. So when they see things like Pocket PCs and GPS devices no one gets nervous, because they are very common.

Safety:

The overall safety situation is overblown by the world media and is not really felt very much in the country. There is very tight security in all public places from government buildings down to the smallest stores and cafes.

I was in Jerusalem on the day that Ahmed Yassin got killed after which I went to the Israeli Arab part of Yaffo, and I did not see or feel anything extraordinary. People live their lives normal as always, although caution is always good, and of course specific areas with problems should be avoided. ALWAYS CARRY A CELL PHONE.

Summary:

Israel is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. And driving in it (verses taking cabs and tours) is a ton of fun. Doing it with a GPS device is even more fun. So if you ever wanted to visit Israel, now is as good as ever. Just remember to take your GPS with you.


Edited by - igurevich38 on 05 mai 2006 12:33:13

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gpspassion

94645 Posts

Posted - 22 avr. 2004 :  23:23:27  Show Profile  Visit gpspassion's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Wow, great article - I'll link it from the front page.
Do you have any screenshots/pictures we could add here? You can zip them and put them on the server.

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igurevich38

USA
764 Posts

Posted - 27 avr. 2004 :  23:54:04  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I uploaded a zip with 4 different kind of maps people can get already in digital format for cheap, including a screen of the gaza paper map mentioned above.
http://www.gpspassion.com/upload/israel_maps_screens.zip
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gpspassion

94645 Posts

Posted - 28 avr. 2004 :  00:41:38  Show Profile  Visit gpspassion's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Nice maps, let's see how we can include here, got some spots in mind?

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igurevich38

USA
764 Posts

Posted - 28 avr. 2004 :  01:00:52  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
You can put the Gaza map under the Check Points section and I just made a new section with map listings where you can put the other maps.

Edited by - igurevich38 on 28 avr. 2004 01:14:50
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amir77a

4 Posts

Posted - 30 avr. 2004 :  18:40:27  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
As a Israeli user of Destinator 3, I can add, that navigating using destinator 3 software, is very easy, and can help a lot.
Although the maps and navigation, are not perfect, in general it's very convenient.

Of course the big problem, is the insane price for the Hebrew/Israel version of the software (only 870$ ).
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RonenB

Israel
51 Posts

Posted - 30 avr. 2004 :  19:02:01  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
WOW
As a local tour guide and the administrator of the biggest GPS&Navigation forum in Israel, it was a real oleasure reading this article. I just like to make few corrections -
1. Maps can be bought for cheaper prices than quoted. A full set of 1:50,000 topographic maps will cost about 170 US$. These are very updated and are useble mostly for off-road tours, either by 4X4 vehicles or by hicking. For touring, you can get a good set of 1:100,000 maps for about 50$ or less. All these are in Hebrew and if you are familiar with our language, you can also purchase a navigation software that holds both 1:50,000topographic maps and 1:250,000 road maps for ~300 US$.
2. A set of 1:250,000 maps in English will be around 20$ or less and could be found countrywide.
3. D3 Israel is expensive but could be ordered see this thead
4. Street maps - these are harder to find especially in English but D3 holds them.
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RonenB

Israel
51 Posts

Posted - 30 avr. 2004 :  19:09:43  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The price quated by amir77a is true but the package also includes amouse or BT Royaltek GPS&Car holder.
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gpspassion

94645 Posts

Posted - 30 avr. 2004 :  19:16:10  Show Profile  Visit gpspassion's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Please keep in mind that we are in the "off-road" section of the forums here so D3 is OT ;-)
We do have plans for a complete article about on the main site about navigation in Israel, so if anyone is game for a review in English of D3, we'll take it ;-)

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igurevich38

USA
764 Posts

Posted - 30 avr. 2004 :  19:32:36  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
RonenB.
I am assuming that the price you're quoting are for paper maps. Is that correct? I was more talking about the digital topo maps that are sold either as part of Turbo 4 software. Is that one $300 dollars? I thought it was about $400. Can you post some places that sell it.

The nice thing about Turbo 4 is that the maps are just BMPs without any encryption, and they have already been calibrated for use in Ozi.

Also, I hooked up Mapopolis together with MAPA tosee of they can get an agreement to buy Isareli map database for them, so that Mapopolis can offer navigation software for Israel for a reasonable price and compete with Destinator. I also send similar requests to all major navigation software vendors.

I think if people bug them enough they may go through with this. Anyone who is willing to send email about getting Israeli maps, please send it to Mapopolis, PMN, Pharos, TomTom, etc...
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RonenB

Israel
51 Posts

Posted - 30 avr. 2004 :  20:37:49  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The price I quated is for Naviguide, the new version of Turbo4. Here is the hebrew link for it. It is a full software package, however, only in hebrew and the software itself is way beyond OZI.
PC version retails for about 160 US$ and PDA+PC version is sold for 300$. More info in hebrew could be found at: www.naviguide.co.il

The maps are BMP but there are over 250 of them so OZI calibaration is not easy and strangely, illegal even if you purchace a license copy. It can be done and I brought the accuracy to about 2-5 m. but I could not describe how, sorry. What you can do is buy the PC version and use a good caliberation (about 50m. accuracy) for the 1:50,000 maps. Here is the link for the MAP files -
http://jeeptrip.com/page.aspx?div=Download&group=1&item=7

If anyone needs any assistance about Off-Road navigation in Israel, please feel free to ask.
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igurevich38

USA
764 Posts

Posted - 30 avr. 2004 :  21:05:00  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
RonenB.
I was talking about Turbo 4 (for the BMPs), not Naviguide. I was looking all over the place for you. (contacted Ido) I had the previous version (from 2001) of them and there was an error in them, so places would be significantly off. These look new, from 2003. Are they corrected?

By the way, how often are the Turbo 4 maps are updated? How old are they? Is there a way to get updates?
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RonenB

Israel
51 Posts

Posted - 01 mai 2004 :  07:17:19  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
You can contact me through- ronen@canaan-tours.co.il
The Turbo 4 maps that you have is from 2001. In 2002 they issued an update for 5 maps but the most recent version is
Naviguide from 2003. The entire paper maps set is made out of 20 maps and these are updated one by one. Right now, most of them are from 2003.
The file http://jeeptrip.com/page.aspx?div=Download&group=1&item=7
could be used for both Turbo4 maps or Naviguide. If you own a legal copy of Turbo4, you can update to Naviguide PC+PDA version for 730NIS = 160US$.
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rick7

15 Posts

Posted - 01 mai 2004 :  17:12:08  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
IGurevich;
Your description of your trip in Israel was very interesting and I realy enjoy it as an Israeli that knows the areas you described.
Your idea of buging Mapopolis, TT and others for developing Israeli maps is an excelent idea. Do you have some email address we can use to contact them?
Gpspassion: sorry for using the off-road section for a no so 'off-road' discussion but didn't want to open a new topic for this.
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gpspassion

94645 Posts

Posted - 02 mai 2004 :  15:18:58  Show Profile  Visit gpspassion's Homepage  Reply with Quote
OK ;-)
You can get a hold of Mapopolis people in the...Mapopolis forums ;-)
http://www.gpspassion.com/forumsen/default.asp?CAT_ID=5

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igurevich38

USA
764 Posts

Posted - 03 mai 2004 :  22:21:05  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Here is the list of emails to whom I sent messages:

PMN: support@pocketmap.com
Routis: info@deluo.com
TomTom: usainfo@tomtom.com
Intellinav: OEM-Sales@netropa.com
Copilot: eurobusdev@alk.com
Mapopolis: info@mapopolis.com

By the way, the only people who replied to me and actually contacted MAPA in Israel about it are Mapopolis. Looks like we need more people to bug eveyrone.
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