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[RoadMate 360 portrait.]

Hacking the Magellan RoadMate 360 @ Floodgap Department of Hacking

Welcome to the Floodgap Dept. O'Hacking page on the Thales-Magellan RM360, Magellan's consumer automotive Global Positioning System (GPS) unit. In this mini-exposé, we'll look at some frequently asked questions from people unfamiliar with the unit, offer some tips and tricks for getting the most out of it, and finally gut it from inside and out by examining its firmware internals and looking at the motherboard. Keep in mind that some of the operations detailed on this site could damage your unit. You use the suggestions offered on this site at your own risk.

Some of the tips and suggestions offered here are broadly applicable to the RM360's siblings, the RM300, RM700, RM760, RM800 and RM860. However, look at the manual first if you're not sure.

Done your own hacking on the RM360? Have other suggestions or tips you've figured out? Send them to me at ckaiser@floodgap.com. Do not send me E-mail asking for firmware or updates -- I don't have any updates, and I am unwilling to risk legal action by offering copies of the current firmware. Any such requests will be ignored. Nothing personal.

This site was last updated 31 January 2008, when I added new information on the internal memory contents, analysis of the formatting process, information on the "mute 360" problem, and noted that the product is now discontinued.

What is the RoadMate 360?

The RoadMate 360, along with the RoadMate 300, represents the low end of Thales-Magellan's range of automotive GPS products. Using a combination of GPS and WAAS signaling and its preloaded USA/Canada road atlas, it offers navigational data, trip tracking and route planning at low cost. Although lacking the additional trappings of more expensive units, the RM360 offers solid navigational performance and detailed street-level maps for one of the lowest prices of any consumer car GPS package.

Here is an indepth review from gpsinformation.net.

The RoadMate 360 was discontinued in January 2008 and is listed as a legacy product.
[Me and the RM360 in my Saturn in Nevada, 2006.]

You sound like a commercial. Do you work for Thales-Magellan?

No, I'm just a satisfied customer. Although my day job has nothing to do with it, one of my abiding passions is roadgeeking and roadgeeks depend on GPS for navigating all those old alignments and having some idea where the sam heck we are.

So far, my biggest trip was along US Highway 6 in 2006, the longest continuous highway in America stretching from the Sierra Nevada mountains in Bishop, CA all the way to the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown, MA (3,205 miles). The RM360 performed admirably from sea to shining sea, plus up to Maine, down the Appalachians to Georgia, and back more or less along old US Highway 80 (represented by modern US 80, I-20, I-10 and I-8) to Southern California for a total trip mileage of 9,622 miles. Not bad for a couple of hundred bucks. The picture on the left is the RM360, myself, my Nikon and my Saturn near Mount Wheeler on US 6 a few miles or so from the Nevada-Utah border.

I also make regular trips to the California Bay Area, and am notorious for my US Highway 395 research (Hesperia, CA to the Canadian border), so you can imagine how much of a workout the unit gets.

Thus, when other people tell you this, that or the other thing about a particular unit, be sure to ask those of us who literally drive across the country and back which ones they prefer. That's the mark of a real road test.

How good is the GPS?

Very good for its price and consumer range. First, keep in mind the limitations of current civilian GPS technology, i.e., 15 meters; this shrinks to 3 meters when augmenting GPS with WAAS signaling (the FAA's Wide Area Augmentation System for civil aviation), but WAAS isn't available everywhere, and that's still 10 feet in either direction. Nevertheless, the RM360 has a 12-channel satellite receiver to ensure that it makes the most of these facilities. While a satellite lock under a worst-case scenario can take 10-15 minutes to acquire, most of my locks were up within a minute or two from a cold start, and as fast as fifteen seconds from a warm one where the satellite perspective hadn't moved much.

In addition, the limits of GPS/WAAS can be overcome with good software and this is where the RM360 particularly stood out. To stress-test it after I bought it, I took it up and down a local frontage road next to one of the local Interstates that was probably five or six feet from the freeway shoulder at its narrowest. The RM360's lock-on-road algorithm ensured that it never wavered. In fact, it took the combination of passing under a bridge near an on-ramp to the freeway into a recently realigned section of road for the lock-on to flop to the freeway, it only did this about half the time, and it recorrected itself within seconds. If I had a route pending, it never recalculated it until it was sure the road had changed.

In addition to this promising maiden run, across the entire country it provided flawlessly accurate coordinates and road routings and navigated me effortlessly from the main road to hotels, gas stations and friends and family's addresses all as advertised. The only place it had any trouble keeping a lock was in some of the densely forested areas of Connecticut and California (the Redwood Highway was somewhat back and forth) and obviously in long tunnels, but can you blame it?
[Cameron Rd in Tehachapi, CA.]

Look at the screenshot to the right for an example of the compass, coordinate and exit information, taken on my namesake road (an old alignment of the now-defunct US 466) off modern CA 58 between Tehachapi and Mojave in the California desert.

How current are the maps?

The maps are officially Q1 2005, based off NAVTEQ data. So far there has been no update offered for RM360 users, although future SD card maps might be compatible with it; however, I would not buy an RM360 with that expectation.

Some user opinions of the unit have panned it for not having particular streets in its database. This is invariably incorrect; you just have to be exacting about spelling, spaces and (where occurring) directional prefixes. For example, it does distinguish between Washington St and E Washington St (a real life example). Also, people run street names together, or add spaces where there aren't any. This is unfortunately not very helpful when one doesn't know the area and prevailing signage is actually wrong (something I personally experienced), but I hardly think this is the maps' fault. It is also mitigated by having a database of cities for streets, and a "smart entry" feature which minimizes the amount of data entry and thus potential mistakes by matching partial names for you. I might also point out that during the entire trip (a month and 9,622 total miles), it happened exactly twice, I was able to figure out what happened, and so far it has not happened since.

In Canada, the maps are adequate but not as good as in the States. While most roads are marked, some of the signed side roads in British Columbia, for example, did not appear (and those that did appear did not always appear with their given name). This is obviously a NAVTEQ fault, not a Thales-Magellan fault, but it is worth keeping in mind if you are routing to obscure destinations in our neighbour up north.

I just bought this on eBay and it doesn't make any sound. What do I do?
(related) Is there a firmware update?

The internal memory was formatted. This is a catastrophic occurrence and the most common E-mail message I get asking for help. Look under Bugs on the Tips and Tricks page for some background. Before buying an RM360 on eBay, make sure that it comes with the original Magellan SD map card and not a blank one, and make sure that the original owner did not format it! A formatted unit will not speak or make sounds. Because the RM360 is a discontinued device, Magellan WILL NOT FIX THIS. If you want to attempt a reflash, see the Hacking page.

The original firmware version was 1.76. An update to 1.81 is available.

What other features does it have?

Well, frankly, not a lot. It has a map, it has a GPS receiver, and it gets you from point A to point B. That's about it. Oh, and the screen is pretty nice too.
[Cameron Road, old US 466, at CA 58.]

What about playing MP3s, connecting to my computer, any of that?

No, nothing. Although some of its bigger relatives do have music, image and entertainment capabilities, the RM360 doesn't. It also doesn't acquire traffic data, doesn't have a true 3D trip viewer, doesn't provide coordinates over USB, doesn't offer computer-based trip planning (neither for Macs nor Windows), and doesn't have an internal battery. Furthermore, the CPU is fairly slow compared to other units in its price range (such as the Garmins), and Thales-Magellan seems to be in no hurry to offer any updates for its maps or firmware (and even if they did, they would likely not offer them for Macintosh owners such as yours truly).

So why bother?

When you get right down to it, you buy a GPS based on the strength of its navigation, not on the bells and whistles. I considered several units when I was making my choice, including the Garmin StreetPilot series and the Lowrance iWays, but I chose the RM360 because it gave me more navigational information than the StreetPilot c series, it was considerably more accurate than the iWay series which seemed to suffer from poorer lock-on and routing algorithms, and it was priced much less than the high-end prosumer models which offered faster performance and more features, but no additional benefit in accuracy and a price that was nearly triple.

Although I will definitely not say that the RM360 will satisfy everyone, the point of this page is not only to advocate it, but to also show some ways that you can get more out of it. With that information and a good understanding of what GPS can do for you, the motorist, I think you will come to the same conclusion I did that the RM360 is a sweet-spot in bang for the buck.
[Cameron Rd in Tehachapi, CA. (map)]

What now?

First, read your manual, drive around the block a few times, and become familiar with how your RM360 works. Then,

You might also inquire of the GPS hackers at GpsPasSion Magellan RoadMate AIO Forum, or look at some of the RM360's family members at GPSInformation.net.

Cameron Kaiser