By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY, NSW: Imagine always getting green lights every time you drive. That was a utopian goal of the SUNA GPS traffic alerts. But the product developed beyond that and the more data it processes, the more intelligent it is, but it will never be able to help one traffic problem.

As a driver, two things frustrate me. Well many things frustrate me on the roads, but for the purposes of this story, I’m raging about two: red lights and lane merging. The SUNA GPS Traffic Updates can help with the red lights but sadly, humans will have to somehow work out how to merge lanes without slowing to a crawl.

Why does traffic have to come to a stop when lanes merge? I don’t know. Whether it’s four lanes merging to three, or three merging to two, you will eventually get a traffic pile up. People can’t merge lanes. Sadly, SUNA can’t help here, but in fairness to the product, SUNA was never aiming to solve that problem, but if there is a traffic build up from lane merging or any other obstacle, SUNA was designed to detour you around it.

SUNA GPS Traffic Updates transmit traffic information relevant to your current location directly to your compatible GPS unit that displays the alerts as text on the screen. The SUNA service transmits the information via a FM radio signal. So if you’re driving down the freeway and up ahead the traffic has had to merge because a lane was closed, SUNA will alert you, so you can choose to exit the freeway and take an alternative route rather than line up like the rest of them.

Saving time and reducing traffic are aims of the SUNA GPS Traffic Updates, from Intelematics Australia, and the service actually was developed after a study to help people always get the green lights when they drive.

“The underlying technology that we use leverages the technology that was subject to a large scale trial in Melbourne a few years ago,” said Intelematics Australia CEO Adam Game. “The theory of the trial was to tell drivers what speed they should travel at on an arterial road in order to keep getting the green lights wave.

“The ideal speed was 50 kilometres per hour and the technology worked fabulously but human behaviour was such that people tended to speed up to catch the previous wave rather than slow down to stay in their current wave.”

So human nature found a way around the solution there but the product idea was developed. The SUNA GPS Traffic Updates service gathers data from a range of sources from vehicle sensors embedded under the road, as well as video cameras and other sources. The company analyses and crunches all the data and then determines speed of the traffic. When traffic is blocked up, it alerts the driver via their GPS unit.

The more data that comes into the SUNA system, the more intelligent it becomes and the better it is able to determine traffic build ups. One additional method Intelematics is using to enhance the SUNA service is real time traffic data from vehicles driving around with black box-style sensors. There are sensors in tow trucks, road service vehicles and taxis among other on road vehicles, called probe vehicles.

“At the moment we use probe vehicles to quality control and calibrate our system, so that involves putting a black box in the car that transmits its location back every minute or so and from that we can compare what the vehicle is experiencing with what we are broadcasting on the SUNA traffic updates,” said Game.

Eventually, every vehicle with a GPS device could be fitted with a transmitter sending back its speed and location to Intelematics which would crunch it, and send back the traffic alerts. So we could all be helping make the system even more intelligent and maybe then we would always get the green lights, but call me a cynic, I still think merging will be a challenge.