September 25, 2008 / 10:56 AM / in 10 years

Tele Atlas to offer TomTom traffic data to clients

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Digital map maker Tele Atlas says it is to start selling its parent car navigation device maker TomTom’s (TOM2.AS) data on driving conditions to other makers of navigation devices, expecting to win new customers and generate more sales from existing clients.

TomTom has gathered extensive data from customers’ devices, equivalent to driving the road network of Europe and North America 2,000 times, tracking how fast it is possible to drive on a road at a given time.

Tele Atlas, which was taken over by TomTom for 2.9 billion euros ($4.25 billion) this year, said the data will make it possible to route drivers differently depending on the day of the week and time of day.

“The database allows you to drive with local knowledge even though you are not a local,” Tele Atlas chief executive Bill Henry told Reuters.

It will be sold as an additional feature to Tele Atlas’s core products and the company hopes it will give it a competitive edge over Navteq, the only other map supplier with a global reach, which has been bought by the world’s largest cell phone maker Nokia NOK1V.HE.

“You have to differentiate on things that are difficult to copy,” Henry said. “You cannot buy this product from anybody else.”

The TomTom database contains speed profiles, derived from half a trillion automatic speed measurements that TomTom customers have been sharing over the past two years.

It may also find uses beyond car navigation, Henry said.

“If you think of local governments and the people who are responsible for street networks — today people spend huge amounts of money (...) to try and capture traffic volumes, speed and all of that. This seems like a great data source that is available at a dramatically cheaper cost,” he said.

Tele Atlas is also tapping into TomTom’s user base to improve the maps themselves — effectively turning the millions of users of TomTom’s navigation devices into assistant surveyors was one of the ideas behind the takeover.

Over the past year drivers have submitted more than 3 million map improvements to TomTom, from missing house numbers to changes in the road network, road blockages and one-way streets.

Tele Atlas has begun using this information to improve its maps but is mindful of the risk of introducing errors. It is also wary of deliberate abuse — some people have reported that the road they live on is closed to traffic, hoping that navigation devices would route less traffic their way.

Tele Atlas said separately that Google Maps (GOOG.O) has started using its North American maps, replacing Navteq maps.

Editing by Greg Mahlich

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