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Technology / AI and automation


TrafficMaster Plc predicted it wouldn’t reach profitablity following its March flotation because of the level of investment it was going to make. True to form, it didn’t: net losses for the six months to June 30 were UKP541,000 up on last time’s figure of UKP468,000, on turnover up 61.8% to UKP571,000. However, the company, which produces in-vehicle information systems warning drivers of impending traffic congestion, says the increase in turnover is satisfactory and that together with the UKP99,000 banked from the flotation it has generated enough to defray the build-up costs involved in an office relocation, product development and the establishment of distribution channels, the three main objectives the company set itself at the time of flotation. TrafficMaster’s motorway network is according to David Martell, the company’s chief executive, well ahead of schedule. The company has now been given the go-ahead by the UK Department of Transport to launch the network, which will cover all motorways in England, Scotland and Wales on December 7. The network comprises a series of motorway beacons roughly two miles apart that detect slow-moving traffic by sending signals back to the central site at its National Traffic Data Centre. These signals are then relayed to be drivers’ mobile in-car display systems.

European car manufacturer

From early 1995 subscribers will be able to receive information via local broadcast facilites, designed to given them advance warning of trouble spots in the locality, such as closed road junctions or fog ahead, and saving a typical two and a half hours a month. The company has also designed and filed patent applications for its Passive Target Flow Management system, which monitors the number plates of passing vehicles to detect the flow of traffic. The systems uses cameras that time-stamp number plates and identify the exact time the car passed the camera in three-minute blocks; this information is then transmitted to a second camera which examines the digital data and then identifies whether the car passed it within a predefined time limit. The system is likely to come into effect early next year. TrafficMaster is also working on two new Smart Cards for use within the in-car system. One will act as a memory card for upgrading its current software and the other will act as a subscription card which users can buy from the company direct or through retail outlets, which have yet to be named. The company is also currently talking to a major European car manufacturer with the view to integrating the TrafficMaster system within the manufacturer’s in-car systems; this is targeted to happen within the next 12 months. Trafficmaster plans to sell through major UK High Street electronic chains, department stores, cellular telephone distributors and motor distribution chains. The company says its first orders from retailers will begin to filter through in November and that it currently has 500 outlets interested. The firm has also set up a dedicated sales team to access the heavy goods vehicle and fleet markets as according to Martell, it is a very different sell that involves cost-benefit analysis. Martell estimates that the heavy goods vehicle market amounts to some 450,000 trucks and buses, and estimates that TrafficMaster will gain 5% to 10% of this market in the next couple of years. He regards the company’s estimated UKP2.5m investment into a networking infrastructure as sowing the seeds for long term profitablity and he forecasts that the real cream of this investment will show up in 1996.

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CBR Staff Writer

CBR Online legacy content.