Life in the traffic (with TomTom)

Posted on December 10, 2011

I travel frequently, so drive a lot in the major Metro areas, primarily in and around Durban, Johannesburg/Midrand/Pretoria and Cape Town. The last few months I have spent in Johannesburg, and have had the privilege of using a TomTom with GoLive HD traffic enabled.

The GoLive HD traffic service isn’t perfect. In fact, it has many flaws and I lose count of the number of times that  I find myself crawling along while the device shows no traffic on my route. Regularly I would climb into the car, program in my route and find it clear, then be stuck in some kind of snarlup with no warning, making a mockery of the “estimated time of arrival”.

That said, there were a number of times when it did warn me well in advance of traffic  problems, sometimes asking to re-route me around the problem, others giving me details of the estimated delay but indicating that alternate routes would be no quicker. At the time of some of the (in)famous Julius march from Johannesburg (halfway) to Pretoria I was in Bryanston needing to travel to the Carlton Centre. The TomTom warned me of road closures and routed me right around them. I was very grateful not to be caught up in all the activities.

Somehow, over the 5 or so months of using this service, the accuracy seemed to improve.  Estimated arrival times seemed to get more accurate, and multiple problems en-route were detected.


I am using the TomTom GoLive 1000. This device is slimmer and lighter than the first device I had borrowed (Go Live 650), and the touch screen seemed a bit more sensitive. This isn’t a review of either though, but none the less, just to say the traffic service of both seemed the same and worked well.

The only catch is that you always need to let the device know where you are going so it knows the route. Once you are travelling between common places (work, home, OR Tambo, hotels etc) you can save them all as favourites and then on startup just select your destination. Quick, easy and well designed.

I read recently that TomTom is struggling, laying off a lot of people, and moving out of the personal navigation device market. This is really unfortunate, and I hope it doesn’t stop the development of the Traffic HD service.

The service comes for 1 year free when you buy an enabled device and then costs around R400/year thereafter. For just over R1/day I think once you start using it, it pays for itself in reduced frustration levels and time savings. TomTom have a winner here.

In conclusion, the fact that, despite knowing where I am going and not needing directions, every morning I diligently plug in the device  and select a destination just to get the traffic information and route redirections, speaks volumes for how dependent I have become on a somewhat imperfect service, but one that is oh so much better than the alternates.  Thinking of getting a GPS, choose one with traffic, you won’t regret it. The Go Live 1000 is around R3000 at Cape Union Mart and R2800 at  I got mine from Cape Union as I wanted it on the day and they gave great service in store (Canal Walk).

P.S. I had a Garmin for a while, the traffic options works, but it isn’t as good as the TomTom, particularly in SA. The top end Garmin device seems better specc’ed and all around nicer than the TomTom, but for the traffic alone I went with TomTom. Some bad experiences with Garmin SA support in getting the traffic service activated also turned me off them a bit.


Struggles in getting Garmin Live traffic activated

Posted on April 14, 2011

Update (16 May):

Today I received another email from Garmin. The online activation is working, no really, this time it really is. And low and behold, a visit to the site shows that indeed the under construction banner is gone and you can do an on-line something. I can’t test it since mine was manually activated a while back. Glad it’s finally working, really poor show Garmin in taking so long to get it sorted, but glad its finally done.

Update (26 April) :

I received a mail today from Peter Smith at Garmin today in reply to my very first website request to them for activation. In the mail he suggests that the online activation is (finally) working. I went back to and found the same link to the same in under construction page. I mailed him back, he mailed back and suggested I shouldn’t go to that link. “Please go to since that link you have does not work anymore . The webpage was redesigned . Go to products , Live Traffic and follow the pages”. I tried this and end up with the same page, tried refreshing, different browser etc. Not sure where the problem is or why Garmin thinks their new site is live when it isn’t. Anyhow, seems it is perhaps a bit closer to being live, though why they would mail customers to say its live when it isn’t is beyond me.  Did let Peter know, as well as suggest that if they are replacing the page the least they can do is put an automatic redirect in place as this is the page referenced on the hard copy product documentation in the retail channel. We await further progress.

Original post :

I had a break-in back in November and after lots of disputes with ABSA they finally paid out. I used some of that payout to replace my GPS and with my dislike of traffic and being stuck in it opted to get a Garmin with Traffic adapter. After some further delays the company nominated by the insurance assessor delivered the goods to me. This was around 6 weeks ago.

I unboxed all the goodies and tried plugging it in. The traffic adaptor was recognised by the Garmin and it said it had a USA subscription that would be activated when it picked up the signal. I scanned a few times, no luck, time to read the instructions. Eventually found them and saw that South Africa has it’s own unique activation method. Ok.

Off to the website as instructed (, clicked on the traffic activation link, only to find this wonderfully helpful (not) graphic :

Garmap - Under Construction

Garmap - Under Construction

Read up some more, nothing of use, other than having a minor wobbly when reading on the site that the service is only available in Johannesburg, despite it being sold to me in Durban. Google then showed up press releases saying it was now active in Durban, clearly it was just the official website that was out of date.

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