UK-based Trafficmaster Plc is developing an in-car vehicle navigation system called
T-nav which combines an ‘off-board’ server based routing system with
the company’s current live traffic flow data information.

Trafficmaster claims T-nav is unique because it takes into account current
and forecast traffic conditions. Once a driver has logged a chosen route with
the T-nav call centre, using a mobile telephone, a route-guard service is automatically
provided, watching the route ahead and sending an automatic alert should traffic
problems be noted.

Although the company is keeping pricing and subscription information to itself
for the moment, the system should cost much less than the $US5,000 typically
charged by car makers for in-car sat-nav.

A source said that although “the commercials have not been done yet”
the hardware was likely to be priced under $US400 and the operating costs would
probably be a modest subscription charge plus a mobile phone charge for each
destination entered.

With T-nav, the hardware and mapping database is housed off-board in a central
server computer and the only equipment added to the car is a GPS satellite-based
positioning device and a small in-car unit (ICU) which receives the route data.

Trafficmaster therefore takes care of map updates, unlike on-board systems
which require the regular purchase of a new CD to keep up to date with road
system changes.

To use the service, the car driver contacts the central server with a single
mobile phone key press, automatically providing the car’s exact location
to the server computer.

A call centre operator will request details of the destination required and
can advise the expected journey time, based on the route chosen and live traffic
information to hand.

Route data is automatically downloaded to the car’s ICU, formatted to
minimise cellular airtime and keep operating costs down. The ICU then provides
route instructions via the car audio system speakers using a voice-based Oracle
programme.

As with conventional sat-nav, each instruction is issued ahead of an upcoming
junction/route change.

Should the system be alerted of congestion ahead, the driver is automatically
warned and, by pressing the star key on the hands-free mobile phone, can select
an alternative route.

The T-nav system provides the shortest and, taking account of traffic flows,
the quickest route.

Regular routes can be entered into the system using the Internet and, via voice
recognition technology, the driver uses the mobile phone to input a destination
into the central server to obtain journey time and activate the route guard
facility.

The new system is currently under development by a new operating division within
the Trafficmaster Group, Telematics Service Provision, and will be available
in the UK later in 2001.