There’s finally some good news for people tired of sitting in endless traffic jams.
Altech has concluded a deal with the SABC that will allow Garmin and other manufacturers of GPS-based personal navigation devices (PNDs) to begin providing real-time traffic data to SA subscribers for the first time.
That should mean less time sitting in traffic.
Real-time traffic data allows PNDs to warn drivers of traffic problems en route and to find alternative routes, allowing them, for example, to navigate around a traffic accident.
It’s a service that’s been available in Europe for several years already, but the first traffic-ready PNDs are finally set to go on sale in SA as early as next week.
This is after Altech Netstar Traffic, a joint venture between Altech Netstar and UK traffic management specialist Itis Holdings, last week finalised an agreement with the SABC that will allow it to use the Radio Data System, or RDS.
RDS is the same broadcasting system that tells your car stereo what station you’re tuned into or what song is being played. Real-time traffic data is sent over RDS to compatible PNDs, in-car navigation systems and cellphones.
The agreement with the SABC paves the way for companies like Garmin to begin selling devices that use this real-time data to help people navigate around traffic problems.
Garmin Distribution Africa CEO Richard Fearon says real-time traffic information will “reinvigorate” the PND market by “driving up the usability and wantability” of the devices.
At launch, Garmin will only sell one traffic-ready device, the 4,3-inch Nüvi 1300T with bundled GTM25 traffic receiver. The R2 900 cost of the device includes a one-year subscription to the real-time traffic data system. It goes on sale in June.
Fearon says Garmin hasn’t yet decided what it will charge for subscription renewals or for standalone traffic receivers, which will only go on sale in August. However, he says Garmin is “aware that this is a numbers game, so we’re not going to price ourselves out of the market”.
Existing Garmin PND users may have to update their firmware before they can use the external traffic receiver — which is built into a cable that connects the PND with a car’s cigarette lighter. They will also have to purchase the latest, 2010 map data from Garmap. Even then, not all Garmin PNDs will be supported, the company warns.
The traffic data is only available in Gauteng at launch, though Fearon says this will be expanded quickly to other parts of the country, with Cape Town to come online next. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral