Real-Time Travel Information - More Services…with the Right Equipment

By Directions Staff

On of the more interesting developments during the past month was the announcement that Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ, major competitors in the digital street centerline data business, are collaborating on the standardization of traffic codes for digital maps for the United States.According to information provided by both companies:
"No standard set of traffic codes exists for maps of the U.S., inhibiting the cross-platform use of traffic data solutions.For example, navigation systems operating with a NAVTEQ map are unable to link to or utilize Tele Atlas traffic information, and vice versa.A standard set of traffic codes addresses this challenge and, once available, will directly enable the delivery of real-time traffic information to navigation systems and portable navigation devices -- regardless of map provider -- in major markets across the country."
The standards will be based upon the European Radio Data System-Traffic Message Channel (RDS-TMC) Alert C specifications.The delivery of traffic messaging with these specifications is through existing analogue FM transmitters.

By way of background, the RDS was developed over 20 years ago in the European Broadcasting Union.Anyone who has traveled in European has probably noticed that, if your car radio is tuned to receive traffic updates, regular programming is interrupted to receive the latest travel information (Cadillac was the first US carmaker to offer RDS in cars in 1998; call signals for radio stations now seen in many cars in the US is an example of an RDS transmission).According to this organization:

"Travel information with RDS is possible using the Travel Programme (TP) and Travel Announcement (TA) flags.Information is broadcast for motorists, identified in parallel with the ARI system with the corresponding RDS features TP/TA.But ARI is being replaced on a European scale, so it will cease after the year 2005.A more recent development of RDS is the digitally coded Traffic Message Channel (TMC), which is now planned to be introduced all over Europe, within projects funded by the European Union.However, present RDS radios are not yet suitable for RDS-TMC."
The European telematics marketplace is more developed than that in the United States.In 1999, a report was issued Traffic and Travel Information Broadcasting - Protocols for the 21st Century," which outlined the architecture for a communications infrastructure (See Figure below).In this report, it was stated that , "Future TTI services will have to be developed on the assumption that communication with people on the move will definitely take place within the new competitive multimedia service environment, where broadcast technology will be just one delivery mechanism and another will be mobile telephone technology.


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For the service provider specifically, the Transportation Protocol Experts Group was created to determine methods of multimedia broadcasting.The RDS Forum maintains a website with other useful information.

NAVTEQ also announced NAVTEQ TrafficTM, a system that will bypass the existing radio-delivered traffic information and will provide wireless data transmission to a vehicles on-board navigation system.The system will be available in twenty markets beginning with in-vehicle navigation systems on-board selected 2005 car models.In addition, NAVTEQ also launched, XM NavTraffic, that will debut this fall and provide traffic data to the AcuraLinkTM, a communication system that will be a standard feature on the all- new 2005 Acura RL.According to the press release, "The state-of-the-art Acura Satellite Navigation System will provide RL drivers with real-time traffic information integrated with an in-vehicle navigation system, a first in North America."

In other data news from Tele Atlas, the company entered into a strategic alliance with ProMiles, a provider of information on gasoline prices at over 72,000 stations or roughly one-half of those across the United States.According to the company, "Through this partnership, ProMiles will provide Tele Atlas on a daily basis gas prices at the pump for four grades of fuel -- Regular, Plus, Premium and Diesel."

The benefit of each of these information services (traffic, fuel prices) through both wireless or radio media will allow the traveler many options to reduce travel time and fuel costs.However, although the data may be available, the mechanism for delivering the information is still dependent on purchasing either an in-vehicle navigation system (The Acura RL will cost you $45,000+ with the in-vehicle navigation system.), an XM satellite radio subscription service, or being within the reach of an FM station capable of delivering an RDS-TMC alert.

Other Resources:
European RDC-TMC MOU with Alert functionality
BBC TPEG C++ Library Documentation (v2.0)
Radio Data System Forum
Traffic and Travel Information broadcasting - protocols for the 21st century
Live UK traffic information data is available in a binary file of TPEG for testing
European Union Telematics Applications Programme
ITS America
XM Radio


Published Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

Written by Directions Staff



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