Motoring: Hi-tech ways to avoid the jams

I'M LATE and it's the early-morning rush hour on the southern section of the M25, a time and a place where it is essential to have up- to-date traffic information.

All over the country, more than 1.2 million motorists get caught up in jams every day. This congestion results in 2.7 million lost man hours and costs the economy some pounds 129m. So alerting drivers about trouble ahead and steering them out of a jam is an area of research which is rapidly developing in importance.

Even the BBC has come up with a travel service which is set to revolutionise the way we get our travel information. But, for the time being, what are the options on a Friday morning?

The majority of in-car music systems are now equipped with Radio Data Signalling (RDS), which not only retunes your radio for the best reception in whatever broadcast area you are driving through, but also interrupts your tape, CD, or radio programme with the latest local travel bulletin. This morning, my RDS system introduces me to BBC Radio Kent with a warning about delays between junctions eight and nine on the M25. So an RDS radio is a pretty good first line of defence against traffic congestion, although there are a number of other gadgets.

Out of the corner of my eye I can see a flashing amber light. That must be my RAC Traffic Alert 1210. As a member of the RAC I can get the 1210 package for pounds 19.99, which also includes a Nokia digital phone. The little black crucifix-shaped 1210 unit runs on three AAA batteries and has an array of lights pointing to all points of the compass. It also beeps at you.

If the light furthest from the centre comes on, it means that the hold- up is more than two junctions away, or eight to 12 miles on an A road. If the middle light comes on, then the problem is up to two junctions away, or four to eight miles. The nearest light to the centre of the unit illuminates when the trouble is before the next junction, or up to four miles away on an A road. The lights also glow amber or red to signify delays of up to and beyond 25 minutes. The unit beeps three times when you join the network and the road ahead is clear, or five times if there is a problem up ahead.

The really clever part is when you use a Cellnet mobile phone. I did and it told me exactly where I was on the M25. It gave much more detailed information about the delay up ahead. By dialling 1, followed by the number of the motorway, in this case 3 for M3, I got up-to-the-minute information for that route. Dialling 0 put me in touch with an RAC Traffic Information Adviser, who told me about alternative routes.

Working closely with the RAC on all this is Traffic Master, the acknowledged market leader. The company has more than 7,000 sensors nationwide, which detect changes in vehicle speeds. When the average speed drops below 30mph, a signal is transmitted to Traffic Master's data centre and from there to vehicles equipped with one of its products.

The entry-level system is Traffic Master Freeway. Priced at pounds 79.99 plus an annual subscription charge of pounds 24, it relays live traffic information. A lot more sophisticated is the YQ, at pounds 149.99, with an annual subscription of pounds 110, which features a screen display. It allows the user to call up local motorway areas and pinpoint traffic problems. Traffic Master systems can be found as standard equipment in certain production models.

Oracle, a voice-based system designed to feed traffic information through car radios, was first installed by Vauxhall in 1996 on top-of-the-range GLS, SRI and CDX Vectra models. This year, all Citroen Xantias have a similar Oracle system as standard.

Imagine, though, having an in-car system which not only tells you about traffic problems, but also guides you out of them. From March, that becomes a reality. The new Jaguar S-Type is the first car in the world to have a fully integrated, on-board satellite navigation system, combined with live traffic information provided by Traffic Master.

David Martell, the company's chief executive, says: "In the face of ever- increasing levels of congestion, on-board driver information systems incorporating `intelligent' route guidance and traffic information will soon become essential equipment."

That was just the sort of equipment I needed to find the BBC's research and development complex, hidden in a south-London suburb. The BBC's Transport Protocol Experts Group (TPEG) is broadcasting a pilot travel information service on digital radio. Glyn Jones, managing editor, BBC Digital Radio, says: "TPEG is a personal travel service. It allows the BBC to broadcast more travel news than we could ever cram into the full 24 hours on a radio station, but your radio will sift it and only give you the traffic news that affects you."

It is RDS with knobs on, but at the moment the test broadcasts can only be picked up on digital radios, or certain in-car systems with expensive decoders. The BBC expects hardware manufacturers to latch onto TPEG and incorporate it into in-car navigation systems. So in the near future there will be no need to be stuck on the M25, or anywhere else for that matter.

JAMES RUPPERT

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

    £25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

    £25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

    £25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas