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TomTom extends coverage of real-time traffic products for congestion reduction

tomtom
TomTom’s real-time traffic service for congestion reduction uses a variety of inputs, including anonymous GPS and GSM probe data. Click to enlarge.

TomTom, the leading supplier of in-car location and navigation products and services, has extended its HD Traffic portfolio of real-time (updates every 2 minutes) traffic products for congestion reduction with the addition of Australia, Canada, Luxembourg and Poland, bringing the total count of countries covered to 18.

The other countries currently covered are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Additional countries will become available before the end of 2011 and into 2012.

TomTom real time traffic products can act as stand-alone traffic monitoring and reporting systems or be incorporated into navigation solutions or routing tools. These products can benefit a range of industries; governments and traffic planning agencies can reduce costs by eliminating the need to install or maintain fixed measurement systems and by more efficiently using the existing road network; fleet companies can save money by ensuring their vehicles spend less time in traffic and get to their destinations faster.

(HD Traffic is the trade name for the real-time traffic data used exclusively in TomTom navigation devices. The same real-time traffic data is delivered for licensed users as Enterprise Traffic. HD Flow and HD Route Times are products of the same real-time traffic system but the output is a specific version of the complete data to suit particular use cases.)

TomTom as a company has evolved with a combination of GPS and mapping. That gives us a unique inroad. We have shipped about 60 million devices to date, and the devices are progressively becoming more connected. TomTom invented the new category of the PND (personal navigation device) as something being connected. Having direct access to detailed map attributes combined with the connected devices gives us an enormous capability to make traffic products.

—Maarten van Gool, Managing Director of TomTom Licensing

Real Time Traffic in Toronto
Shot of real-time traffic in Toronto. Click to enlarge.

Real-time traffic information for congestion reduction. Drivers can receive traffic information in many different ways, TomTom notes: on the internet; on the radio from a broadcast service; on signs above or beside the road; or in navigation devices. The HD Traffic service is targeted at the navigation devices.

The TomTom real-time traffic information system generally relies on high volumes of anonymous probe data measurements to generate traffic flow data, supplemented by incident data to provide the causal data. TomTom uses two types of probe sources:

  • GPS Probes. GPS probe data is collected from connected personal navigation device (PND) users who have opted to share travel time information on an anonymous basis. The connected devices have a modem and simcard that enables them to share data with a central server at TomTom using the GPRS data service from a GSM network. These devices all subscribe to TomTom LIVE Services—so where relevant to the country they are operating in, they receive real-time information on traffic, speed cameras and other services every two minutes.

    In exchange for receiving the LIVE Services data on the user’s device, anonymous GPS traces are sent from users who have opted to share travel time information on an anonymous basis to contribute to the information sources for the next traffic situation update.

  • GSM Probes. TomTom also uses cellular probe data as an input source. By looking at the activity of cell phones moving near GSM network antennae, the (anonymous) handset location can be matched to the road network and speed information calculated. More than 80 million GSM probes contribute to the TomTom real-time traffic system in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the UK.

    This technology, patented by TomTom, is a cellular floating car data system (CFCD) exploiting signaling data from the telecommunication operator network. The principle of the CFCD is based on changes of the Timing Advance (TA) measurement values as the handset moves in the active cell segment. Timing Advance is a measurement in the GSM network which is important to synchronise phone calls and is a measure of the distance between the phone handset and station antenna site to which it is currently connected.

    With knowledge of the base station’s accurate geographical location and the operating segment of the specific cell’s reach, changes of the TA value for a specific handset can be used to set up virtual beacons at the Timing Advance sector cell boundaries with respect to the underlying road network. This means that the exact location of the cellular handset within the antenna segment can be triangulated.

TomTom also integrates incident information from third-party suppliers—such as road closures, lane closures and accidents—who are actively monitoring the road network. TomTom also collects traditional road sensor data directly from the operator of the sensor (government bodies) or through the third-party incident data aggregator.

As the data is collected, it is matched with a common map reference and time stamp. Data sources are combined in real-time based on algorithms which continually recalculate speeds on every part of the road network. These calculations take into account the age and reliability of each data observation by data source. Incident data regarding, for example, road closures, is directly passed through to the traffic service feed and displayed on the map of the navigation device. This data bypasses the fusion process.

The TomTom real-time traffic system also looks at recent history of each road stretch to determine the probability that congestion will occur. For example, if there is traffic congestion on a specific road segment 90% of the time at Monday morning rush hours, the company needs fewer observations indicating current delays from probe data or mobile phones to be confident in publishing a congestion event in the data feed to customers.

In June, TomTom launched HD Traffic version 5.0. Among other additions, the latest version includes automatic road closures, pinpointing the exact section of the route that’s disrupted. Improved standstill detection, for example during road blocks caused by accidents, makes it even easier to locate and avoid traffic jams.

The latest version of TomTom HD Traffic utilizes TomTom’s own Open LR technology, enabling more intelligent routing that allows drivers to receive traffic information that covers up to 99.9% of all roads. With coverage of more roads than ever before, drivers can now benefit from more precise routing and more dynamic route options.

Open LR technology transfers traffic information from a center to in-vehicle systems and is an alternative to the widespread RDS-TMC method, and is capable of greater coverage. While RDS-TMC makes use of a limited number of pre-coded locations, Open LR allows the transmission of information to any location on a map. The information transferred can consist of the current traffic situation at a certain location, traffic forecasts or special alerts.

Historical traffic information. TomTom has used the anonymous GPS measurements, globally, to build a comprehensive picture of road-network performance; since 2007, more than 4 trillion anonymous consumer-driven GPS based measurements have been collected from TomTom users around the world. With more 45 million TomTom GPS navigation devices already in use, and growing every day, the historical traffic information collected in this way gives valuable insight into the traffic situation on the road network throughout the day.

At the ITS World Congress in Orlando, TomTom announced a partnership with traffic software and consulting firm PTV that will provide historical traffic data to the city of Zürich, Switzerland. The city of Zürich will use TomTom’s historical traffic database together with PTV’s software for transportation and traffic simulation. TomTom Custom Travel Times equips the city with a view on the speeds travelled on individual roads and during specific days and times, enabling customized analysis and improved transportation planning.

TomTom also introduced Custom Probe Counts, a traffic product providing an indicator of traffic density for roads globally. Geo-marketing agencies, insurance companies and other customers can use Custom Probe Counts as an additional dataset to complement traditional tools, creating efficiencies and increasing confidence in their location based studies.

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