Issue: Nov 2004


AcuraLink – The Commuter’s Dream?



by Gary Witzenburg

You’re headed home after a long, hard day, looking forward to dinner and relaxation. The freeway is moving okay… then it stops. A traffic report says, “Accident ahead, all lanes blocked.” You’re stuck between exits, can’t get off, can’t go back. You may as well catch up on some reading.







 
The AcuraLink navigation system shows real-time traffic data on the navigation screen.
Well, cheer up, Bucky. Help is on the way. NAVTEQ, a leading global provider of digital map data for mobile navigation systems, and XM Satellite Radio have partnered on a satellite data information service called XM NavTraffic. Debuting this fall first on Acura’s 2005 RL and soon on Cadillac’s CTS, it provides continuously updated real-time graphic and text information on traffic tie-ups and (where available) flow speeds, “personalized for each driver’s needs” based on a chosen route.

Here’s how it works: NAVTEQ continually collects data from multiple sources across the country, including the leading commercial traffic data providers, government transportation departments, police and emergency services, road sensors, cameras and airborne reports. It aggregates, quality tests and merges this data with its digital maps, then forwards it for broadcast via XM’s network of satellites and ground-based repeaters.

Icons on the vehicle’s nav system screen show locations of accidents, incidents (such as disabled vehicles), construction and weather delays, while color coding indicates three ranges of flow speeds (0-27.4, 27.5-52.4 and 52.5+ mph). Clicking on an icon brings up incident and location details (“U.S. -101 N. at Barham Blvd., Accident, left lane blocked”). This data is updated every minute and broadcast every five minutes, but flow speed information is available only where sensors have been installed.

AcuraLink, which includes XM Satellite Radio, the DVD-based navigation system and a one-year free subscription to XM and the traffic data service, is standard equipment on the $48,900 ’05 Acura RL. After the first year, XM Radio is $9.95 a month and the traffic service an additional fee TBD, probably less than $5/mo. Beginning in January 2005, Cadillac plans to offer a similar system as an option on ’05 CTS models.

To start with, XM NavTraffic data will be broadcast for 20 major markets: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco/Oakland, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. More areas and availability of the system will come as the network expands.

Eventually, NavTraffic should be capable of integrating all this data and choosing for you the fastest, most trouble-free route among available alternatives before you set out and on the move. Consider how incredibly helpful that will be!


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