In my recent reflexions about the new potential for hybrid radio based on FM I identified RDS-TMC as an incentive to maintain and even expand the FM (RDS) infrastructure in Canada. While speaking about that at a meeting last week I learned that Corus Entertainment was deploying RDS-TMC traffic for Garmin devices in major cities in Canada. I’m not sure how long it has been there but I think it is quite new. And now that I’m aware of that, I see traffic enabled Garmin devices advertised everywhere… and prices are very reasonable.
So last week I ordered a Garmin model 265WT from Tigerdirect.ca (170$). The “T” at the end of the model number indicates that the FM RDS-TMC is included in the box. With such package, traffic information seems to be included for free for the whole life of the device. I’m not quite clear about that but for some reasons, Garmin also sells lifetime traffic information for 50$ on their website. Maybe some devices have to be activated before traffic information works?
Anyways. I received the device yesterday and was eager to try it. That’s what I did on my way home last night. It was very simple to install. In fact, nothing special has to be done. The lighter power cord must be plugged into the device and the car (the FM RDS receiver is part of that cord) and that’s it. When I launched the device, it took just a few seconds before I could see a little “traffic icon” on the maps.
Pressing on that icon revealed two types of traffic information. I took a picture (shown below) of the traffic situation last night at around 7pm in Ottawa. As we can see, there was heavy traffic on the main highway in Ottawa… and that was no surprise to me… it was perfect timing for my experiment: hockey night! And every time its the same thing: the highway gets jammed at the “Scotiabank Place”. So that’s the red segment on the map here.
The other traffic display shows a list of the various problem zones. This is shown on the second photo I took:
So very positive experience for me. I’m impressed. It works well and is very easy to use. The next step will be to see how real-time navigation and re-routing works considering the traffic. In the meantime, I guess canadians will want a new Garmin for Christmas because they certainly understand that traffic is a major enhancement on a GPS device.
If you wonder where exactly the service is available, have a look at this page on the Navteq website. A quick scan over the list shows following regions: Hamilton-Burlington, Montreal-Laval, Oshawa-Whitby-Clarington, Ottawa-Gatineau, St. Catharines-Niagara Falls-Welland, Toronto-Mississauga and Vancouver-Surrey-Burnaby.
! UPDATE, WARNING: I was told that the service has not been officially launched yet. I guess that this means it may be unstable or could even be stopped anytime. Please consider this if you think of buying yourself a new Garmin for Christmas.