Tuesday, 31 August 2010 17:26

SUNA use growing; service improvements coming online


A raft of improvements to the SUNA Traffic Channel service are arriving at a time when the number of compatible navigation devices is exploding.

Usage of SUNA Traffic Channel, the service that provides live road conditions data to navigation devices via FM radio or the Internet, has grown dramatically since its introduction in 2007.

Initially only available in Melbourne, the service now also covers Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth, plus adjacent areas, giving it a footprint that extends to 95% of the capital city population.

More than 800,000 SUNA-enabled devices have already been sold, with a total of 3.5 million expected by the end of the 2010-11 financial year. The service is widely supported by factory-fitted and aftermarket navigation devices (as well as smartphone navigation apps), and Intelematics - the company behind SUNA - expects more than 30% of GPS devices will soon be using the service.

"We now supply to several of Australia's leading car manufacturers such as Ford, Nissan and Toyota as well as aftermarket in-car navigation brands like Pioneer, Eclipse and Alpine," said Intelematics CEO Adam Game.

"Clearly we've moved into the mass market," he added.

So what will SUNA Phase 2 deliver to drivers? See page 2.

SUNA Phase 2, which is almost complete, delivers a number of improvements to the service.

Coverage of freeways and motorways will be completed through the use of instrumented probe vehicles in cities where sensors are not installed below the road surface. The SUNA probe fleet comprises around 10,000 vehicles, which report their location, speed and direction at approximately one minute intervals.

The precision of reports on urban arterial roads will be improved by merging multiple sources of data such as sensors at traffic lights and probe vehicles.

In addition to supplying data to the system, the probe vehicles also allow validation of the accuracy of the service. For example, if SUNA is reporting slow moving traffic on a particular section of road but a probe vehicle sails through, this could mean that a car has broken down on a traffic light sensor at a time when traffic is light enough for it to cause a significant obstruction. In that situation, SUNA operators might elect to ignore inputs from that sensor for a period of time.

"Probes have been a very significant addition [to SUMA]" giving an increase in service quality, said Brian Smith, general manager traffic and content at Intelematics.

Smith also noted a number of improvements made to the travel time generator for journeys on freeways and arterial roads that give "significant improvements" on the previous model. These include a new assumption (based on research) that people are more interested in delays in the 'straight ahead' lanes at traffic lights than any holdups to turning traffic.

There are more improvements and planned changes - see page 3.

Under Phase 2, service availability will be improved through greater broadcast redundancy.

SUNA Phase 2 should be fully functional by the end of September.

Plans for future improvements include coverage in Tasmania and New Zealand, and of non-metropolitan highways.

Darren McRostie, general manager product development at Intelematics, said the company had developed its own modular platform to run SUNA, which made it easy to plug in the new and changed components that implement SUNA Phase 2.

The SUNA infrastructure is based on Windows Server 2008, Hyper-V, SQL Server 2008, Java, the open source GeoServer geospatial data server, GEWI traffic and travel information software, and other components.

Other SUNA products include SUNA Predictive, which provides historical travel times for individual road segments. This data allows products using the service to more accurately calculate the estimated time of arrival for the current journey. It is delivered for 15 minute periods for every day of the week, optionally with separate estimates for weekdays during school holidays when traffic conditions can be significantly different.

SUNA support is included in some of the new Holden Commodore range announced today - please read on.

In related news, Holden today announced its Commodore VE/WM Series II range. The Holden-iQ navigation system fitted as standard to SS V-Series, Calais V-Series and Caprice models incorporates live traffic alerts from SUNA.

All of the Series II vehicles provide iPod integration, and all models except the low-end Omega include the 'virtual changer' feature that allows up to 15 CDs to be ripped to an internal flash drive.

On the green side, the models fitted with 3.0 or 6.0 litre engines can run on bio-ethanol (E85), E10, unleaded or premium fuel.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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