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As the economy revives and corporate travel budgets thaw, in-house lawyers will find themselves on the road again. While the hassles of business travel have been much publicized, there is some good news. A host of new or updated gadgets and gizmos can make finding your way outside the office much easier. For city slickers looking to rent cars, Hertz Corp. offers the NeverLost in-car GPS navigation system. The satellite-based system identifies where you are at any moment, and can direct you — turn by turn, with voice prompts — to any destination stored in its database. The service is currently available throughout the United States ($8 per day) and in selected cities in Canada ($12 per day). For in-car navigation, drivers should also check out Magellan, the consumer brand of Thales Navigation, a developer and manufacturer of positioning, navigation, and guidance equipment. The Magellan RoadMate 700 portable GPS auto navigation system features a built-in map database of the entire U.S. and Canada. Users select a destination using the full-color touch screen, or the backlit keypad, to find directions. The unit can be moved from one vehicle to another, and has more than 2 million points of interest built into its maps database; users can also search for gas stations, restaurants, hotels, ATMs and more. For times when work must be done en route, MTI Research Corp.’s Mobile AirDesk installs in any car or truck, in the front seat or back, putting a laptop wherever it’s needed for computing in the car. The small desk — a platform essentially — installs in seconds, with its base clamped between seat cushions, protecting the laptop from harmful road vibrations. From the passenger seat, it can put a laptop at the driver’s fingertips, and be tucked out of the way when the driver is at the wheel. Mobile AirDesk costs $159. For those who turn off their phones and savor their time alone in the car, Griffin Technology offers the iTrip FM transmitter for Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod portable hard drive and digital music player. The $35 snap-on device plays music and audio files from an iPod through any FM radio, in the car, or elsewhere. It draws minimal power from the iPod, and does not require batteries. There are models for both the original and newer iPods, including the newly introduced iPod mini. If you’re looking for still more wizardry on your dashboard, take a look at OnStar Corp.’s namesake service. Perhaps you’ve heard the company’s disturbing radio commercials — recorded calls for help from OnStar users, like one hysterical woman who locked her baby in her car. They unlocked her doors remotely. Phew. The three-button OnStar panel is installed in your car to provide an array of roadside resources. The “white dot button” lets users place and receive telephone calls using a hands-free, voice-activated phone that is integrated into the vehicle. The “OnStar button” connects users to an OnStar adviser, who can assist with directions, roadside assistance, or hotel and restaurant recommendations. The “emergency button” places a priority call to an OnStar adviser who can contact the emergency services provider nearest to your location, to dispatch ambulance, police, fire, or other services. Should a front air bag deploy, an OnStar adviser will automatically attempt to contact the driver to offer assistance. If no answer is heard, emergency services will be sent to the location of your car. The service costs $16.95 a month for basic coverage. Lastly, the dangerous threesome: your hands, your phone, your steering wheel. Many states are moving to restrict the use of handheld cell phones by drivers — led by an outright ban in New York. To stay out of trouble, pick up a hands-free headset from Motorola Inc., Samsung Corp. or Nokia Corp., at amazon.com or any number of other retail outlets. They are neither expensive nor hard to find. The $500 fine a repeat offender in New York could save would pay for literally dozens of hands-free setups, or more than a year of OnStar’s full service package.

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