The ins, outs and arounds of the SUNA GPS traffic channel

An in-depth look at the new traffic channel for GPS devices

SUNA is essentially a radio channel that transmits traffic congestion and incident data to a compatible GPS device.

SUNA is essentially a radio channel that transmits traffic congestion and incident data to a compatible GPS device.

Two weeks ago, Intelematics launched the SUNA Traffic System in Sydney and Brisbane. Although the channel has been in use in Melbourne over the past year the technology is relatively new to Australia, particularly in comparison to Europe and North America.

SUNA is essentially a radio channel that transmits traffic congestion and incident data to a compatible GPS device. With this information, the device is able to suggest a modified route, potentially preventing accidents and saving significant travel time.

Rather than implementing an entirely new traffic reporting system, SUNA relies on the infrastructure already put in place by states' traffic authorities. In Sydney, for example, SUNA will rely on the Roads and Traffic Authority’s SCATS and CCTV systems in order to monitor the city’s urban arteries. The information is collated at SUNA’s headquarters and personalised for individual users based on their current location.

The transmission technology behind SUNA isn’t entirely new, either. The channel utilises the Radio Data System (RDS) standard to transmit the traffic information to GPS devices over FM waves every three minutes. Essentially SUNA piggybacks off existing radio stations in order to transmit traffic data; in Sydney it will transmit in parallel to 106.5FM. Transmitting to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, SUNA will cover 75 per cent of Australia's metropolitan roads using this technology.

In order to differentiate between radio signals and traffic data, SUNA uses the Traffic Message Channel (TMC) international standard in order to encode the data. Because it is encoded, the data can only be received by a SUNA-capable device and can’t be fed through conventional car audio systems.

The service has been available in Melbourne for about a year, but was only available on one or two different GPS devices. With the expansion of the SUNA system into Sydney and Brisbane, Intelematics has improved this situation. SUNA will offer support for GPS devices from all major manufacturers, including TomTom, Mio, Navman, Garmin and Navway. The system is also available in selected FG Falcon models as an optional extra for $2249, as well as Pioneer’s upcoming AVIC models, the F900BT and F500BT. High-end GPS models will have the service built-in, whereas owners of medium- and entry-level models will incur a once-off fee of $130-$150.

So is the system worth the extra money? Intelematics says that there are 200 traffic warnings about congestion and incidents during each traffic peak period in Sydney. This means that SUNA can be a valuable tool for metro drivers to avoid congestion and get to their destination faster.

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James Hutchinson

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