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A Brief History of GPS Vehicle Tracking Systems

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Modern GPS is a true marvel for both dealerships and vehicle owners. Today, GPS tracking for car dealers can locate stolen vehicles in real-time, keep car owners informed of their driving habits, and even send an alert when it’s time for maintenance, thanks to an onboard diagnostic feature. But GPS wasn’t always so useful.

GPS came about in the 1960s, but it took decades for tracking equipment to evolve into the technology we all know today. Below, you can learn more about the history of the GPS vehicle tracking system.

The History of GPS Vehicle Tracking

GPS, or Global Positioning System, went through several stages to become the technology that we use in the modern era.

Early Beginnings

Government and military agencies conceived the idea of GPS in the 1960s. Aerospace engineers launched the first Block-I developmental satellite in 1978, and by 1985, 10 more of these satellites had been launched into space.

Initially, the U.S. Department of Defense used these satellites to track its vehicles and equipment. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan authorized civilian commercial airlines to use GPS as a way to improve air travel safety. This was the first use of GPS outside of military applications.

At this point, there weren’t enough GPS satellites in orbit to use for fleet management yet. GPS tracking for fleet vehicles would not become available until several years later, in the 90s.

GPS in the 1990s

Civilian companies began to use a GPS vehicle tracking system for their fleet vehicles in the early 1990s. However, companies had to pay an expensive fee to access the tracking system, which meant only large organizations could afford to use this technology.

On top of that, GPS tracking units were large and pricey. The processing chip in one unit alone could cost approximately $3,000. That put GPS out of reach for all but the wealthiest freight, delivery, and transportation companies.

Many civilians had heard of GPS technology by the mid-90s, but they couldn’t yet see the potential for GPS in their daily lives. Public perception began to change in 1996 when President Bill Clinton touted the possibilities of GPS for the general public.

In 2000, the U.S. Government ended its “selective availability” program, which had previously decreased the accuracy of GPS for non-military users. It also approved plans to launch three more GPS satellites for civilian use. Additionally, the price of a GPS tracking chip dropped to just $1.50, making this technology far more affordable to the average civilian user.

GPS Tracking Today and in the Future

Thanks to drastic price reductions and vast improvements in technology, millions of people use GPS in their daily lives today. This user-friendly technology allows individuals to share their location with family members, avoid traffic jams, plot routes to new destinations, and much more.

Individuals can even use GPS to monitor their fitness activity. GPS has also contributed to the rise of popular augmented reality games, such as Pokémon GO.

Police can also use GPS to track suspect vehicles during pursuits. Law enforcement officers attach an adhesive GPS unit to suspect vehicles, allowing them to follow at a safe speed and distance. This enables them to stop fleeing suspects without the risk of injuring other drivers and pedestrians.

GPS also has numerous applications for fleet management companies. For an inexpensive subscription fee, GPS systems can help fleet managers keep track of driver speed, routes, fuel usage, and driving patterns. This enables companies to improve driver behaviors and increase their efficiency.

Take Advantage of Modern-Day GPS with SafePoint

At SafePoint, we use this very same GPS vehicle tracking system to help dealerships keep tabs on their inventory. With SafePoint, you’ll get real-time location data, stolen vehicle recovery assistance, vehicle health analysis, and around-the-clock security for peace of mind.If you own a car dealership and want to learn more about the benefits of installing a GPS tracker on your vehicle, contact our SafePoint expert at 833-723-3764 today. 

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