Test: SUNA Traffic Channel
Review by Feann Torr - 9/September/2008
We used the Ford Falcon's satellite navigation
system to road test the SUNA traffic channel
This map shows the 'full' and 'fringe' SUNA traffic
channel coverage in the greater Sydney region
The triangles represent traffic incidents across
the city, and can be clicked on to view details
of the type of incident and if there's any delays
This image from the Ford Falcon's satellite
navigation shows the SUNA traffic channel
warning the driver of upcoming traffic delays
It's Thursday morning, you're driving to work and the sun's shining.
The working week is almost over, and the traffic is surprisingly good.
you see the gridlock ahead - a sea of red brake lights - and hit
the anchors, trying to keep calm as a Barina cuts you off for a
three second advantage...
I'm not saying I personally get road
rage, but after only a few weeks of sitting in traffic twice a day
for extended periods of time I have to admit that the frustration
Indeed, some of the biggest issues facing motorists today are fuel prices, sustainable transportation, and traffic congestion.
Australia over the past three years there have been almost one million
new cars sold per annum, adding greatly to the number of cars on the
For major cities like Melbourne, Brisbane, and
Sydney, this means peak hour chaos on a daily basis and sometimes the
weekends aren't much better either.
We recently tested the new SUNA traffic channel integrated into a Ford Falcon G6 large car, and to call this real-time traffic system useful would be an understatement of significant proportion.
put, the SUNA Traffic Channel advises you of delays and average traffic
speeds and works in tandem with selected satellite navigation systems
to suggest alternate routes.
So instead of blindly driving into
traffic congestion, the system alerts you in advance and can suggest a
You can literally sit in the driveway
before leaving for work, plug in the route you plan to take and you
will be advised as to the traffic conditions ahead. It's a very useful
stress reliever, believe you me.
We drove the Falcon G6 in a
range of traffic conditions and found the system to be surprisingly
accurate in Melbourne city and the surrounding suburbs, and even as far
out as the Surf Coast to the west of the city.
When you don't
enter a route into the system, it can still update you to conditions
ahead and is far more detailed than TV or radio station broadcasts.
example, as we were driving into the Web Wombat offices in the
Melbourne CBD from the Northern suburbs, we thought we'd take City
Link, a tolled freeway with no traffic lights and a 100km speed limit.
usually the best route to travel in terms of getting to work on time,
so we plugged in the route and soon discovered that a truck had crashed
on the Bolte Bridge, causing big delays.
Better yet, the SUNA
traffic system told us exactly where the spill had occurred, how long
the delay would be, the stretch of road most affected, what the average
speed along that section of road was (10km/h - not quite the 90km/h we
were hoping for), and the estimated time of arrival in the city centre
along that route.
Suffice to say it didn't look good, so we
decided to take an alternate route along Nicholson Street instead,
which has a much slower speed limit of 60km/h, but a higher average
speed than City Link's clogged-up 10km/h.
On the weekend we took
the car out past Geelong, and while heading down the highway were
informed that in a few kilometres time there was "road works for
0.8km" and that the speed limit was reduced as a result. Not a make or
break issue as we were just cruising down to Bells Beach to check out
the surf, but it's nice to be informed nonetheless.
As well as telling you what's going on along your route, it also has
various warnings and updates you can scroll through and select from the menu, good for passengers who are easily amused!
while we were almost at the beach, with a crisp northerly wind whetting
our appetites for some 5-foot kegs, we could scroll through a list of
incidents and saw that traffic was slow on Collins Street in the middle
of the city, about 100 kilometres away. Saturday traffic can be a
The information provided on all traffic incidents is
detailed, and Ford's sat nav system even provides voice overs for all
the information such as any delays or changes in traffic conditions,
all in real time. Keep you're eyes on the road while getting traffic
updates is a great feature.
How does it work?
Intelematics, a Melbourne company
that is owned by the RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria), developed the system which collects data from the same pressure sensors under the road that activate traffic lights.
gathers information from almost all traffic lights and also the
sensors on freeways and highways and then uses specialist 'traffic
flow modelling technology' to crunch all the data and provide exact
details of delays, incidents, even weather conditions if they affect
traffic. The details the system provides includes these parameters:
According to the SUNA traffic channel's creator, "virtually all urban (and many regional) signalised intersections are
networked to central traffic light control systems in each state" which are then used to generate the real time traffic updates.
this information is updated every three minutes, and is broadcast
via encrypted FM frequencies across the land so that if you're
satellite navigation system is enabled, it will pick up the traffic
information. And no, it doesn't interfere with normal radio broadcasts
so you can still listen to your favourite radio stations.
SUNA traffic channel also has access to information from
traffic control centres, from VicRoads in Victoria for instance,
that use their own cameras, data logging sensors and so forth to
deliver up to date traffic analysis.
The result of all this
information is an almost centimetre perfect real-time map of traffic
flow, and it makes car travel during peak hour and through high density
areas such as major cities less stressful.
At present, the SUNA
traffic channel covers only the three major eastern cities, Brisbane,
Sydney and Melbourne. More cities will be brought online in the next
Australia finally has it's own real-time traffic update
system, and it works a treat. I like it a lot - it's pretty much
flawless but if you don't spend a lot of time driving in the city
or in congested parts of town, it may be of limited value.
The biggest factor when considering this system is which satellite navigation system to use.
At the time of writing, Ford was only car company in Australia offering the feature with its $2,290 sat nav system
(the system we evaluated), but there are a few standalone systems from
Garmin, Pioneer, Mio, Navway and the likes that have the SUNA traffic
It's a very handy system that piggy backs enabled GPS navigation
systems and if you spend a lot of time commuting to work it will be an
invaluable tool in saving time, fuel, and even money in some cases.
SUNA traffic channel won't alleviate Thursday morning
congestion, but it is an efficient method by which to avoid the
commuter crush and is a sneak
peak into the future of traffic management.