Sometimes you just HAVE to get excited about technology. Sometime you find the device that not only promises to make your life better but actually DOES. This is one such device:
Unfortunately, one thing that Johannesburg is famous for is traffic where the local thinking or more of a joke actually is that you arrive at meetings either 30 minutes early or 30 minutes late – but never on time.
If you are unfortunate enough to have a meeting at 17:00 the following goes through your head: “which idiot set a meeting at rush hour traffic ? to get to this meeting I need to allow at least 40 minutes drive time, what happens if there is an accident or traffic light out of order ? let me leave at 16:00 to be safe”
So you leave an hour before the meeting only to discover that the traffic lights are working, there is no accident and traffic is flowing. You arrive at the meeting at 16:20 – what do you do for 40 minutes ? too early to go in and its not enough time to get a cup of coffee… ahhhhhhhhhhh !!!!!!
The other scenario is the rush for the airport: “the flight leaves at 18:00, I have to be there 30 minutes before the flight making it 17:30. but that is rush hour traffic so leave 1 hour earlier making it 16:30 and then I have got to return the hired car so must leave 16:00 but that is cutting it fine so I must leave a little earlier just in case…”
Typically, you manage to get to the airport with with plenty of time to spare and land up starring at the Flight Departure Screen instead of spending time with the client.
This scenario happens to lots of people every single day. No wonder we have road rage. Its no wonder we have seriously stressed out people.
I was being kind in my example of leaving only 1 hour early – I know people who travel from Pretoria to Braamfontein who literally drive 4 hours a day just to get to and from work.
This is insane and there has to be a better way.
Enter the Navigation GPS that has Live Traffic feeds into it – the Tomtom Live
What a great concept: you use your GPS to get you from A to B so why not have an option that allows you to see the traffic as well ? However, as with all things – they are good in theory but how do they actually work in the real world ?
So I got myself the Tomtom Live GPS and enabled the Traffic service. I was now ready to hit the road.
At first it seems like a normal GPS that we have gotten used to:
This little image is where this entire system becomes very clever. It tells me that on my selected route, at that location there is a traffic jam and it will take 3 minutes to get through it.
when I zoomed out to get an overview, I could see all the traffic jams around me – I was surrounded ! I also noticed that the Tomtom GPS calculated a route that avoided most of the traffic…
This is getting very impressive indeed.
The next day, I tested it by heading out from Greenside to Kramville for a 10:00 am meeting. Normally I would allow for 30 minute travel time as this is the tail end of the morning rush hour traffic and I am going on the N1 freeway.
The GPS calculated the route and almost arrogantly informed me that it has avoided the traffic and I would arrive at 9:44. “Yeah right” – I left at 9:30 like I normally would. Much to my surprise and astonishment, I arrived SPOT ON at 9:44 !!
Being the sceptic that I am, I fugured that was a bit of luck. So I made the purposeful mistake of setting up a meeting at 17:30 – hitting the rush hour everywhere. The meeting was just of Jan Smuts. More of a car park at 17:00 than a road…
Mr. Tomtom said I shall arrive at 17:11 – “NOT A CHANCE”….I have been making this trip ever since I moved to Johannesburg and it has never been traffic free at that hour.
I never had Mr. Tomtom before. You’ll never guess what time I arrived ?
I was speechless! The Traffic system works brilliantly.
The system also keeps updating itself whilst you are driving. If there is an accident on a road where previously there was none, then Mr. Tomom calculates the delay and informs you that there is an additional 4 minutes added onto your journey. If however, there is a faster route, it gives you the option take it and avoid the traffic – wow !
The accuracy is ridiculous too – down to a couple of meters. Here you can see on the GPS the orange arrows showing traffic and sure enough I was in the middle of the afternoon Sandton traffic. Even had enough time to take out my camera and snap this photo:
Obviously it isn’t perfect. No system is ever perfect. The traffic feed network covers the main roads and some secondary roads. It isn’t going to work on every single back road and shortcut that you take. So be aware of that.
Saying that, so far the GPS has been accurate in about 90% of the routes I have travelled. I have now learnt to trust the device more and more and if it tells me I will get to my destination in 22 minutes, its pretty spot on.
I am finding that I am less stressed when I drive now, I am wasting very little time sitting in the car outside a meeting waiting for the right time to go in. Most importantly it takes the guesswork out of estimating when I need to leave in order to get to my destination on time.
The Tomtom has other LIVE services such as Weather (didn’t use that much) and Google search. Google Local Search is cool as not every business has their info in the Point of Interest (POI) section. So with Google search you look up what you normally would on your computer and it works out what you want and how to get there. I looked up McDonalds Sandton City (as an easy test) which of course it found but it then even told me where the nearest parking lot is ! I looked up Blairgowrie Rec centre (don’t ask) and it found that too. My car GPS didn’t have that one…
I love this product and am trying to set up a meeting with Tomtom South Africa to find out more about how this is possible and what makes this tick. Maybe there is a way to extend the services beyond the actual physical GPS device – perhaps extend it to the mobile phone…
I have been into Location Based Services (LBS) and Mapping for a while now. I have developed an app for Blackberry users, SwiftGO application (a shameless plug), which is an application that tells you where the traffic jams are on your Blackberry phone. I am getting together with MapIT which will see a huge upgrade of the app as I enhance more traffic services into it – so watch this space.
Finally, before you ask (as this is a frequent question I get) this device is available at HiFi Corporation http://www.hificorp.co.za/product/1033913/tomtom-gps-via120-live/
Update 14 August 2011 Email from Tomtom SA:
We cover 99.9% of the SA roads and traffic information is available on all these roads ! We only need a source to be able to measure traffic. So if there are two (sources or TomTom Live) cars standing in a traffic jam on a sandy road, we capture it and translate it into traffic information