Ask any cab driver where the best and worst traffic areas are in Sydney and most will happily list the various offenders, giving you their unofficial rundown by order of time, day and street. The best cabbies will even predict the worst bottlenecks to avoid and the most effective back streets to sneak away down.
But up until now, this pillar of local knowledge has lingered mainly untapped; ready for someone to come along and take taxis' multitude of daily movements (information about the vehicle's movements itself, not the drivers' own advice) and put it somewhere useful. Like, in a GPS.
That's where SUNA comes in. The first of its kind, the service serves as an add-on for most GPSs. Traffic signals are picked up over a reciever and are fired back to their regular GPS.
The service was launched in Sydney in 2008 and then followed its expansion shortly after in Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
However, the problem with most traffic warning systems, as we found during our earlier trial of the SUNA (we're assuming things have improved since our initial review), was that traffic data isn't static. It can't easily be solved by stationary traffic cameras or fixed traffic flow sensors. Sure, those devices help - but they aren't exactly in the car with you.
Predicting traffic is often like picking winners in the Melbourne Cup. Sure, there's form - but there's also a good degree of chance involved too. Traffic is dynamic and any traffic system worth its salt needs to be moving with you, facing the same kinds of traffic challenges as the driver at any given moment. Like in a taxi for example.
SUNA has fitted each taxi with a GPS that records vehicle location, route and travel time. This data is then sent to SUNA for evaluation, where it's turned into traffic warnings.
A SUNA equipped GPS in your car then receives warnings of traffic problem areas on your route, predicting how long the delay might be and the nature of what's causing the delay. It's only a snapshot of what's happening at any given moment, so it's not an exact science; but with a fleet of cabbies racing around our cities helping to plug this data gap, its another spanner in the proverbial motorist toolkit ; even if it doesn't make sitting in peak hour traffic any more dull than it already is.
SUNA have also added 50 additional cameras to their system for improved system response.
For more info on SUNA, their website for more details. Our original SUNA review, braving the traffic wilderness, can be read here.