RAC Traffic Alert 1740

Made:
c.1999 in United Kingdom

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© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

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© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

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© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

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© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

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© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) Traffic Alert 1740 is one model from the RAC Traffic Alert system, consisting of a small unit used in-car to try to avoid traffic jams before satellite navigation became more widely available with traffic alerts built in. This particular set was available via the Cellnet and Orange.

The unit had no on/off switch but rather was activated on vehicle movement. Signals were received from TrafficMaster (established in 1988, now Teletrac) and the unit would display appropriately coloured LED lights showing the severity and direction of the congestion expected on the roads indicated. The unit would only indicate the traffic state on major roads – motorways and trunk roads with the data being provided to registered subscribers (who paid a monthly subscription fee, usually via their mobile telephone network).

The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) Traffic Alert 1740 is one model from the RAC Traffic Alert system, consisting of a small unit used in-car which used a sophisticated ground-based camera monitoring system to send out traffic alerts via the mobile phone network to the device. The system was used by professional and private drivers alike to avoid traffic jams before satellite navigation became more widely available with traffic alerts built in.

These systems entered use just before satellite navigation became widely available and so were not very widely used with very few surviving examples of this transitional and innovative technological solution. The system used a state-of-the-art network of nationwide sensors and transmitters that gathered and distributed traffic data from over 8,000 miles of motorway and trunk routes with data sent to the in-car Traffic Alert device via the mobile telephone network, an innovative combination of technologies along with early use of big data. Equivalent systems today use satellite navigation and data but use the same or similar methods to update traffic reports in a more sophisticated way.

Traffic information was derived from a state-of-the-art network of nationwide sensors and transmitters that gathered and distributed traffic data from over 8,000 miles of motorway and trunk routes. These blue TrafficMaster camera/aerials are still situated along motorways and trunk roads collecting traffic data for various purposes. When vehicles approached one of these Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, part of the number plate was recorded and the distance / time measured when it passed another such camera and thus built up a pattern of traffic to reveal if the road was clear or congested as well as the severity of congestion.

The unit had no on/off switch but rather was activated on vehicle movement. Signals were received from TrafficMaster (established in 1988, now Teletrac) to registered subscribers (who paid a monthly subscription fee, usually via their mobile telephone network) through screen, speech-base, and display receivers of which the RAC Traffic Alert 1740 was an in-car display receiver. The unit displayed appropriately coloured flashing LED lights showing the severity and direction of the congestion expected on the roads indicated: green for clear and a series of orange/red lights on the four arms depending on the severity and direction of the congestion but only on major roads such as motorways and trunk roads.

The unit was affordable – the owner of this example purchased it for £20 c.2000 – but the monthly subscription of up to £60 per month, depending on use and mobile phone company, meant these units were and now are relatively rare.

Details

Category:
Road Transport
Object Number:
2018-120
type:
rac traffic alert 1740, by rac and trafficmaster, uk, c.1999
credit:
Leon Malins

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