Portable navigation units have typically been handy in cases where a city, address or route is unfamiliar, but TomTom is looking to change the paradigm to make portable navigation a daily commuting need instead of a convenient luxury via its new HD Traffic service.
TomTom GO LIVE 1535 M
- $269.99 (Includes 12-month subscription to LIVE services)
- Available at: Best Buy, Future Shop and more retailers to come
The GO LIVE 1535 M is the first TomTom unit to feature HD Traffic, which is what this review is focused on. HD Traffic is the key differentiator because it takes real-time traffic updates to a level that is far more on-the-fly than current offerings are. The traffic updates included on portable nav units over the last couple of years have been entirely focused on major streets and highways, and even then, information sometimes proves outdated to the user on the road.
HD Traffic uses a combination of satellite and 3G cellular data (through a partnership with Rogers in Canada) to bring in historical data in tandem with real-time data (location, speed and distance) pulled directly from HD Traffic-enabled devices. These include the GO LIVE 1535M and the TomTom apps for the iPhone and iPad.
Prior to the launch, TomTom set up its commercial fleet customers with the service, so a lot of the initial traffic information is derived from what they encounter on any given day, regardless of the street. As more consumers get the unit or app, TomTom says the information should improve even more.
The good thing about it is that it works in the background, so you don't really notice it until it does its job. Once you input a route, it will immediately scan for any traffic jams, construction zones, stoppages, red-light cameras and even the cheapest gas stations on the way. If traffic begins to back up along the route, the unit or app alerts you – during setup, it's up to you to decide if you want it to reroute you automatically, or if it should ask permission first.
During testing, it pulled me away from gridlock by guiding me through a couple of side streets that were easily four blocks out of the way from the straight line I was on. It seemed odd at the time, but by literally circling around the congestion on the main street and some of the parallel roads, I reached my destination faster.
It's hard to argue against the value and peace of mind the service could provide if it performs consistently well. Commuters frustrated by long and arduous treks to and from work are the most obvious beneficiaries, particularly because the route HD Traffic deems the best may not always be the same from one day to the next based on traffic conditions.
The drawbacks are the fact the service costs $59.99 to renew every year after the first 12 months are up. Plus, because Rogers is involved, HD Traffic stops working to avoid roaming as soon as you cross the border into the United States. And although TomTom says it only needs to collect data every two minutes from just 10 per cent of HD Traffic users, a solid install base still needs to be there to make this a disruptive technology long-term.