Anyone's who's bought a car with a built-in nav system knows the pain of seeing their expensive accessory totally eclipsed by even the cheapest external GPS units just a year or two later -- everything from UI to multimedia integration progresses so fast it's almost not worth it. That might change soon, though -- Harman and Mercedes are working on a "hybrid" nav system that combines the easy replaceability of an external PND with the integration and sleek looks of a built-in system. The goal is to build a standard design that can upgraded quickly -- right now OEM systems have to be designed almost three years in advance -- so the screen and controls will be mounted on the dash in a cradle, while a second hidden "processing box" will handle the actual GPS system, music storage and playback, and Bluetooth connectivity. Harman says eventually prices should fall to the point where automakers can compete with aftermarket GPS systems -- we'll see if that hold up when Mercedes ships the new kit in eight vehicles scheduled for the second half of 2010.

[Via Gearlog]

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