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Sat-nav gets smart

On the map: FM signal relays news of traffic incidents

New sat-nav service helps drivers steer clear of gridlock

General News logo20 Aug 2007


SMART sat-nav systems will soon help Australian city slickers avoid traffic jams.

The Suna Traffic Channel is Australia's first real-time traffic information service for satellite navigation units.

It is similar to services already on sale in Europe which enable satellite navigation units to change their suggested course in reaction to traffic incidents.

Developed by Intelematics Australia, a subsidiary of the RACV, the service is expected to be available in most capital cities late next year.

The service covering Melbourne is in its final stages of development and is expected to be launched just before this Christmas.

SUNA gleans traffic information from a wide range of sources.

In Victoria, the information sources include VicRoads, the tow-truck allocation bureau and even traffic light sensors (copper strips at each intersection) which help detect traffic jams.

The new service can relay information regarding accidents, roadworks, lane closures, congestion and even weather conditions that may affect travel times - one example in Melbourne is high-winds on the Westgate Bridge.

That information is then checked and relayed to satellite navigation units using FM transmission.

SUNA said up to 300 messages could be sent out to satellite navigation units during a typical peak hour period in Melbourne.

It said there was usually a delay of 5-10 minutes between an incident being detected and reported, given that the report had to be checked before being transmitted to avoid false alarms that could cost commuters time.

Intelematics Australia is currently working with satellite navigation unit providers in order to include its service with the unit at the point of sale.

The service will be offered to both portable satellite navigation units and those hard-wired into new cars.

It is understood the main satellite navigation units of the all the major brands are able to support the feature.

The SUNA service would be included in the initial price of the satellite navigation unit and there would be no on-going fee.

Intelematics Australia is currently negotiating with the respective satellite navigation companies and would not discuss prices.

GoAuto believes the service could add between $100 and $150 to a typical satellite navigation unit.

Intelematics Australia chief executive Adam Game, said SUNA would provide coverage for more than 75 per cent of the Australian population base in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide by the end of next year.

He said the service was not a panacea for traffic congestion, but enabled motorists to do all they could to minimise time spent stuck in gridlock.

"With the new SUNA Traffic Channel, drivers can now understand, anticipate and respond to changes in the traffic flow and road conditions surrounding them in real-time," Mr Game said. "SUNA Traffic Channel is Australia's first digital traffic information broadcast and will operate 24 hours per day, all year round." He said SUNA would be valued by motorists in Australia.

"The enormous popularity of similar services in Europe, Japan and North America suggests that motorists' value being informed in real-time about road conditions. Even the ability to estimate an accurate arrival time can be an enormous relief to motorists."

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