Friday 12 June 2009

TomTom: Schoolchildren can slow you down

Continuing our question to Brizzleize the rest of Europe, a quick look at TomTom, Amsterdam-based makers of SatNav toys for cars.

This is their office, near the train station and and tram halt
Next to the parked bikes and the pedestrians
And round the corner from the flat rate 1-euro stop/go bus service.

This company is a little part of Bristol, in disguise. How so?, people ask.

Take a look at their marketing blurb.

Their business model is built around selling satellite navigation tools to car drivers. With new cars building it in, and a lot of old cars already fitted with existing models, TomTom need to sell boxes to the hold-outs, those people who drive around with a 1993 A-Z in the glove compartment, they need to convince everyone with an existing TomTom to upgrade. Yet the rate-of-obsolescence of old products is determined mainly by the rate-of-change of road infrastructure: new roads, new road restrictions. Predictable and generally manageable by people who can upgrade every fiew years -no easy way to switch to a subscription model for timely updates on one-way systems.

As for drivers who don't even have SatNav, maybe they don't believe they need it.

TomTom need to come up with a way to convince everyone they need SatNav; they need something to fear. What have they come up with: schoolchildren. As in "schoolchildren or shopping crowds can slow you down. "

To ensure that you can drive across the city at the fastest speed the city allows, even if there are schoolchildren around, you need a new TomTom device, one with a subscription to "TomTom IQ Routes", that knows about traffic. Presumably, then, it laughs at you if you want to go up to the lake district on a Friday evening in summer, or shakes its virtual head if you try to bring up any route on a Saturday in July and August that involves the M5 motorway bridge over the Avon. Implementation details aside, however, the key point is that this company, based in Amsterdam, whose staff appear to walk, cycle, bus, train or tram into work, are selling products to our city's drivers that claim to help navigate them away from peak pedestrian schoolkid densities on their journeys. Which is clearly a little bit of Bristol, lurking in the centre of Amsterdam.

One question though. If it does aim to steer you away from schoolkids walking around, what does it do when you ask it for a route on that morning school run?


SB said...

As part of their business model, the next logical step is for them to take payments from interested parties to direct traffic past specific locations (shops, adverts etc), or to direct the traffic away from particular locations (schools, streets where the residents have paid to have a "rat-run" closed).

SteveL said...

Exactly. Or take a commission from Shell and BP to route you more fuel-inefficiently.

alice said...

t"he next logical step is for them to take payments from interested parties to direct traffic past specific locations"

I'm sure that their devices have to send location signals to get directions and equally as sure that they could sell the data of the well used and chosen routes to companies wanting to show off the value of their billboard positions to clients who want to post adverts on them.

SteveL said...

Oh, now that is a thought. I thought it was interesting enough that for it to work every participant had to push up their location/traffic data (maybe not real time though), and get downloaded analysis -and pay for the analysis. But yes, the whole commuter dataset would be interesting to advertisers, town planners, governments.

One thing though, to really work out the fastest routes, you need to send people down them. Should the TomToms experimentally direct people ways nobody normally goes, just to see how long it takes to get there?

Chris Hutt said...

TT's blurb contains some interesting claims.

For example "... calculating your route based on actual speeds driven on roads compared to speed limits." So they know what our actually speeds are, when we are breaking the law. Yet they withhold this evidence from the authorities?

"It also calculates your realistic journey time, based on real speeds people are able to drive, not just speed limits." Does this mean that they take account of the probability that speed limits will be exceeded in many cases? Would that amount to conspiring to commit speeding offences? Conspriracy is regarded as a serious crime even if speeding isn't.

SteveL said...

@chris, that's an interesting thought. Why not approach a local sales out as a customer and ask them? or email tom-tom.

NB, conspiring to commit speeding offences? Most car vendors do that, don't they?