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TomTom Links GPS To Web Traffic Data

Do you think about traffic? I do.

I am blessed with a car-free commute to work, but I am not quite as blessed to have friends and family members separated from me by such pleasant byways as Interstate 95, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.

I've seen my share of brake lights -- sometimes, with my left foot on the clutch pedal of a standard-shift car -- which I'd like to avoid if possible.

So over the years, I've learned the usual spots where congestion is likely, I've memorized alternate routes, and I've gotten in the habit of turning into the various traffic-advisory AM signals on those routes (am I the only person who now thinks of 1610 AM as "Radio Free Turnpike"?).

More recently, I've tried solving the problem with technology. I've tested Global Positioning System receivers with limited traffic-data features and found them somewhat wanting. On the other hand, I've found that a passenger operating a Web-connected smartphone can be an immense help.

In today's column, I try out a GPS receiver that also incorporates a wireless modem, TomTom's Go 740 Live. As you'll see, I didn't find this a tremendously attractive solution; it's awfully expensive (though not if you compare it to the price of a car manufacturer's built-in GPS) but offers only so-so accuracy. It feels like an interim device, something that people will look back on and say "this had the right idea, but we wound up getting there in a different way" -- before returning their attention to the GPS-enabled, Web-connected smartphones they've grown to rely on for all their navigational needs.

I could be wrong to think that. The Boston Globe's Hiawatha Bray came to a more positive conclusion about the 740, and prospects for devices like it, in his review last month.

We can talk about where we'd like to see GPS navigation go during my Web chat today -- at 11 a.m., not noon, on account of some schedule conflicts. But let's also discuss that in the comments: What's your current traffic-avoidance routine? What role does digital technology play in it? What role would you like it to play?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 17, 2009; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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Comments

Zomg! I think about traffic like all the time. Traffic and Kyra
Sedgewick, of course.

Personally, I'm with you. Having someone next to me with a Blackberry
equipped with Google Maps is all I need. It's hard to see how the GPS
navigation device manufacturers can keep market share if smart phone
penetration continues to grow.

Posted by: tailfins | April 17, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

We still need the basic functions to work first, including those between the ears.

I was on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk (read: "board" + "walk") yesterday morning with my family when a car came down Rehoboth Ave, turned left and proceeded onto the boardwalk amongst the pedestrian traffic. The lady rolled down the window, asked, "Is this a road?" and then explained, "My GPS says this is the way to get to my hotel!"

Or maybe she had one of those new units which told her that was the lowest-traffic way to get there...

Posted by: Chalres | April 19, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm in agreement - we're not quite where we need to be in terms of coverage, accuracy, and timeliness. Heck, even the talking heads of WTOP and XM routinely get traffic reports wrong (data is usually stalte). And given my one route home over the Potomac, I'm resigned to just sit in traffic when it appears. I'm not prepapred to kayak around it.

FYI I'm on the road for work in south Florida and my new TomTom (140-S) did a masterful job the other day re-routing us around a closed road due to police activity. SOLID.

Posted by: davezatz | April 19, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

iPhone's map program with traffic is absolutely one if its most useful apps. It's not really helpful with alternate routes, though, and frankly our TomTom's pretty klutzy at it, too, so we end up with the old paper map that blocks half my field of vision while my wife tries to unfold it. (On the other hand, we're usually not moving at that point anyway.)

Posted by: mb8888 | April 20, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

What I want is a voice controlled phone with head-up display on the screen type of GPS with instant downloads of traffic changes.
You auto johnnies should catchup with aviation technology, w'eve had HUDs for 50 years.

Posted by: latticehewhoknows | April 20, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I have the Navigon 5100 which comes with traffic alerts at no extra charge. I have found that the traffic alert is almost always a false alarm. What I do is I wait until I confirm the traffic problem. Then I explore the alternative route if I am in a hurry.

Posted by: Milton5318 | April 22, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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