Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described data provider Inrix Inc. as a competitor to Clear Channel Radios Total Traffic Network. Inrix is one of the firms that has a partnership with Clear Channel to provide such data.
BMW AG and radio broadcasting giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. today said buyers who opt for a navigation system in most 2007 model BMW vehicles will receive real-time traffic information.
The technology -- which includes automatic guidance to alternative routes when a primary road is congested -- bypasses the prevailing model for such traffic services. Typically, other carmakers have sold traffic information with a monthly subscription fee of about $10.
The real-time traffic information is expected to be available in some BMWs as early as midmonth.
"It's simply our view of the best way to offer a service to our customers," said BMW spokesman William Scully. "To have something like this overlaid on the navigation system makes the navigation system something you can use daily."
BMW would not reveal the take rate for optional navigation systems, but Scully said the company expects to sell more of the systems because of the real-time traffic offering.
Acura and Cadillac have been the only brands to offer real-time traffic mapping, on the Acura RL and Cadillac CTS sedans. But the feature is slated to appear on a large number of 2007 models. Selected Acura, Lexus, Infiniti and Nissan models will use XM Satellite Radio's real-time traffic service. The Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Nitro and Jeep Wrangler will use Sirius Satellite Radio's offering.
BMW's Scully said buyers of the 3-, 5- and 6-series cars; the X5 crossover; and the M5 and M6 performance models will pay $100 more at the outset for the navigation package, primarily to cover the cost of the black-box receiver for the traffic data and the software that runs the dynamic routing program.
With the added $100 cost, the navigation system option is expected to cost either $1,900 or $2,100, depending on the vehicle. The feature is standard on the M5, M6 and 6 series.
The Clear Channel Radio Total Traffic Network will be available to BMW buyers at no charge for at least four years, Scully said. Clear Channel's service covers 44 urban markets, the smallest being Memphis, Tenn.
Jeff Littlejohn, Clear Channel Radio executive vice president, said discussions with BMW had been under way for at least a year. Clear Channel has more than 10,000 subscribers using its service through aftermarket systems sold by navigation system makers such as Garmin and TomTom. But Clear Channel expects that user base to grow dramatically with the BMW addition.
"This has been offered in Europe for quite a while but has only just begun in the U.S.," Littlejohn said. "We launched our service in January of 2005."
Competitors of Clear Channel in developing traffic data include Traffic.com, SmartRoute, and LandSonar, according to reports from Telematics Research Group Inc. In July Telematics Research forecast that the subscriber base for traffic services would grow from a negligible sum now to nearly 4.5 million by 2011.
Littlejohn said: "Really, the limiting factor for real-time traffic in the U.S. has been lack of knowledge about its availability."