Punch your destination into the navigation system in a new vehicle—especially a luxury-brand model—and you’re likely to get more than just driving directions. Many of today’s systems alert you of upcoming traffic congestion and even adjust your route on the fly to help avoid it.
But there’s a catch. Most of the real-time traffic features offered as original equipment use satellite radio-based data services—called either XM NavTraffic or Sirius Traffic—that require a monthly fee of about $10 a month (four dollars if you add it to satellite radio service). Past the trial period, if you don’t subscribe, you’re out of luck.
Google Maps traffic - Los Angeles
Mitsubishi is an exception. Instead of satellite radio providers, it’s using RDS traffic data, broadcast over the air in most major metro areas and used by some aftermarket nav devices, for its improved, next-generation nav system that first appears in the 2010 Outlander. The result with this Mitsubishi Electric system—which will follow in the Lancer family next year—is much like the subscription services; you get color-coded maps that highlight congestion, and the nav system itself has dynamic rerouting functions.
And it’s free. Yes, the key difference is that Mitsubishi is covering the incremental cost of the RDS-TMC (Traffic Message Channel) service for the life of the vehicle; the system simply receives the RDS-TMC data from a local transmitter over a radio frequency whenever it’s available.
About the only downside is that if there’s a traffic accident out in the middle of nowhere (like out in the desert near Palm Springs where we checked out the system in the Outlander), there probably won’t be any RDS transmissions to tell you about it.
There's another advantage of the Mitsubishi system: its carpool lane information. The so-called Diamond Lane Guidance is said to be an industry first and can help guide you to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes when it might help reduce drive times.
We’ll keep you posted on how well this RDS-based system works in the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander, and compares to XM and Sirius data—or with phone-based alternatives like the new Google Navigation—as soon as we can give it a full test.