TomTom Traffic in use
TomTom Traffic has been available on the PDA version of TomTom Navigator for over a year now so it is reasonably mature and the limitations of the services are well known.
Obviously this service can only be as good as the input provided by the information amalgamators. In the case of the UK this is iTIS. This service has the potential to create more animated discussion than the currency of the maps. No traffic service is ever going to have all the incidents reported 100% correctly 100% of the time. Of course it is going to be the ones that are not reported that are going to be highlighted rather than the ones that are.
All the Traffic functions are accessed from the Traffic sub-menu which is displayed by tapping the TomTom Traffic icon in the main menu. When you first start to use Traffic it needs to be enabled using the enable/disable icon. On this menu you can also set up the preferences for the traffic operation. Options available are:
- Automatically optimise the route after update. I tend to leave this unticked and make my own mind up about when to re-route.
- Automatically update while on route. You are also able to set the frequency that the data is updated. I always have this option set. The traffic situations change over time and a roadblock may have been cleared before you get to it.
- Beep when traffic changes. Again nice to know when the road clears.
For the traffic data to be downloaded automatically you need to have a route planned. You can select to update the traffic manually if you don't have a route planned.
The image to the right shows the traffic indicator bar, this occupies the right hand side of the display. At the top of this bar is a small icon indicating the status of the connection. The one to the right indicates that the data is being retrieved from the server.
A green circle indicates that the traffic data has been downloaded correctly within the last 10 minutes. A partial green circle 20-40 minutes ago. A grey circle meand the last update was over 40 minutes ago. A grey circle with a red cross shows a connection error. Interestingly an orange/yellow circle indicates that there is more up to date traffic on the server (though how it knows I am not sure).
If there any incidents on the route they will be shown as small icons in the traffic indicator bar. The indicator bar represents the remaining part of your route and any traffic "events" will be displayed up the bar representing where they occur on the route.
Typically the icons you will see are the one to the left for queuing traffic, one for an accident and one for lane closures.
Also visible to the right is a white overlay with red arrowheads. This shows that we are actually in the tailback of the incident. In this case I had no option as there was no alternate route to take that made sense.
Each traffic incident has an estimated delay associated with it. This is added to your journey time to increase the traveling time and ETA appropriately.
If you tap on the show traffic info icon then you get access to a series of displays starting with an overview of traffic incidents along your route. This is shown to the right. The single delay shown is at the Dartford tunnel. Not an easy thing to circumvent.
Pressing one of the arrow buttons shows the individual incidents on the route, along with a description of the cause of the incident.
This allows you to flick through the problems and make your mind up what to do about them. You could choose to avoid a single incident or replan the route.
If you replan the route the route calculations take into account the delay involved and the additional time it would take to avoid the incident. If the avoidance time is greater than the incident time you will not be diverted.
To save costs on the download of data the incident details are only retrieved from the server when you actually request individual incident details.
Another way to view traffic problems is to first download the traffic information, by tapping Update traffic info and then selecting browse map. This displays the normal map browser, but has the traffic data overlaid.
The image to the right shows this display. As you can see there is also an indication of the connection to the traffic server. On this display you have the full functionality of the map browser.
I have not been able to estimate the usage and thus the cost of the GPRS data used. I am still waiting for my mobile bill this month. This is one of my concerns, particularly when used with roaming GPRS, as there is no easy way to determine your data usage. This month I have exclusively used my GPRS account with TomTom Traffic so usage should be easily determined.