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Basics: Traffic Tracking and Avoidance

GPS and Traffic Tracking Services Help You Avoid Traffic and Re-route


GPS technology combined with traffic tracking services provides a tool for traffic avoidance and alternate route selection.

Real-time traffic flow information is gathered by a number of companies for major metropolitan areas across North America and Europe. This information is broadcast via FM signal, cell phone towers, or via satellite. These signals are then interpreted and displayed as part of your in-car GPS display, showing where traffic is slow in yellow or red, for example, and suggesting alternate routes if that feature is supported by the device.

To use traffic avoidance, you will need a compatible GPS device, plus one of these means of receiving traffic data signals:

  • A special FM receiver.
  • A mobile phone or mobile device with data service.
  • An XM satellite receiver.

Garmin, for example, offers three types of traffic services: MSN Direct, which broadcasts an FM signal, the Total Traffic Network, also using an FM signal, and XM NavTraffic, which is received by a satellite antenna and may be bundled with music and weather subscriptions. Prices vary, but as an example, the MSN direct receiver costs $125, and includes a year of free service.

TomTom PLUS traffic services rely on a mobile device with Bluetooth and a wireless data connection. The mobile device receives traffic information and updates it to the GPS in-car unit via the wireless Bluetooth connection.

Most other GPS makers offer similar products. Watch for news and reviews of the latest traffic avoidance technology here!

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