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.


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