CEBIT: TomTom aims to speed GPS users with traffic, lane data

TomTom has upgraded software in its latest GPS devices so that they pick the fastest route more often

TomTom International has upgraded its route-finding software for its latest GPS (Global Positioning System) devices because the previous generation picked the fastest route only about half the time. The software also offers drivers more guidance on which lane to choose at complex junctions, displaying images of the road signs they should follow.

The software will make its debut in three new models, the TomTom GO 530, GO 730 and GO 930, from the end of April, the company said at the Cebit trade show in Germany.

Advanced Lane Guidance is TomTom's name for a feature that provides more realistic representation of the road ahead, including information about which lane to take and which road signs to follow through complex junctions.

The new route-finding software, IQ Routes, draws on historical data about observed traffic speeds on roads, rather than just the maximum speed limit that applies, in order to calculate the fastest route. This resulted in improvements in journey time on almost half the routes tested, the company said.

TomTom gathered the traffic speed information by compiling data collected anonymously from users of its products. The company collects over 500 million such measurements each day, information that will be most useful in urban and mountainous areas where it is often not practical to drive at the maximum speed legally authorized.

The company also unveiled a way to gather that traffic data -- and give drivers more up-to-date information to avoid traffic jams. The TomTom HD Traffic Receiver plugs into a mini-USB socket on the new GO models (and some older devices), and is powered by the car's lighter socket. It contains a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) modem for sending and receiving live traffic data over the mobile phone network.

The US$151 price tag includes six months' access to the live traffic data service. After that, the service costs US$15 a month. TomTom will initially offer the service in the Netherlands, with Germany and the UK to follow this year, and France in 2009.

The new GO devices will replace the existing range. They have a 4.3-inch screen, from 1G byte to 4G bytes of flash memory, an SD Card socket and a Bluetooth radio interface, and will run for up to 5 hours on one battery charge. The company did not announce pricing.

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