Trafficmaster, supplier of live traffic information services to the UK, is launching an intelligent navigation system called Smartnav tomorrow (12 June).

Smartnav is claimed to be the first any-car system to combine satellite navigation, live traffic information and a ‘personal assistant’ to answer questions, guide a driver to points of interest and provide ‘concierge services’.

Smartnav is claimed to be a major advance in ‘telematics’ services, combining satellite navigation and mobile telephony technology from Motorola and traffic information taken from Trafficmaster’s network of sensors and cameras that cover over 8,000 miles of the UK’s main roads.

To use the system the driver pushes a button and is connected to a ‘personal assistant’ (PA) who confirms the vehicle location and takes down a destination or instruction.

Directions downloaded to the vehicle include road numbers, said to provide drivers with clear and concise directions that other comparable systems are unable to achieve.

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Smartnav stores its maps and calculates routes using central Motorola server software based at Trafficmaster’s headquarters, unlike in-car systems that rely on information stored on a CD-ROM or DVD.

TrafficMaster says that this ensures that mapping information is updated regularly and motorists do not have to buy expensive new CDs to maintain accurate information.

When a route is calculated and sent to a car from the Motorola server software, it takes into account the quickest and easiest route using Trafficmaster’s predictive, historical, live and incident traffic information. With the addition of Route Guard, an application that monitors traffic congestion, drivers are alerted to problems and are given the option to choose an alternative route to avoid traffic delays.

Like GM’s OnStar system in the US, the Smartnav PA also provides SOS call assistance, connecting the driver to emergency or breakdown services giving the vehicle’s exact position, plus a range of ‘concierge services’.

The system can also be used to locate the vehicle after a theft or carjacking.

Smartnav works by calculating route information from data held on the server which is then sent wirelessly to an in-vehicle unit. The cellular call ends after the route is received, and Smartnav then provides automated verbal instructions along the route to guide the driver to a destination.

Connection to the Smartnav PA and route downloading takes place over a normal mobile (cellular) phone line with the vehicle’s location pinpointed by global positioning satellites.

As with in-car sat-nav, drivers can set up personal preferences such as ‘avoid motorways’, or store regular routes on the systemby speaking to the ‘Smartnav’ PA or by enetering details on a website.

UK drivers pay £499 for Smartnav plus an annual subscription charge of £120 or a duration payment of £350, covering four years. Fitting is extra.

However, the system is well priced compared with the £900-£1,500 charged for factory-fit sat-nav systems or the £1,400 average cost of aftermarket units.