Traffic Pro Article for Roundel
Mon, 12 Nov 2001
"Traffic Pro, the Z3 and the Y Chromosome"

"Anyone who is too stupid to use a map shouldn’t be driving," said the Y chromosome. Usually I would have agreed with him, but this time I was about to drive through the wilds of West Virginia and Kentucky by myself in a rag top.
Talk to me about the superiority of maps when it’s dark, it’s late, and you have only a bunch of trees and a cow for landmarks.
I recognize that barn, and those chickens. We passed them an hour ago. Is that the same chicken?
The fun quotient disappears when there is no gas station, and the dropped top of my convertible is only suggesting I should study the stars to find my location.
Maybe what pushed me over the edge to get a GPS unit was that surly chick from Holiday Inn who hung up on me. Providing one has cell phone service, driving Interstates towards major cities, a call to Holiday Inn’s 800 number results in them asking you where you want to stay. I asked them to find me a hotel near where I was headed, gave them the Interstate and exit. The answer was, "If you don’t know which hotel you want, you are wasting my time, *click*."
At least with a GPS I would know where I was, and could use a map if I was lost. I could even call the 800 service and reserve a room.
I have to get a GPS.
I knew that Becker had a GPS unit that was designed for my car, I had seen it demonstrated at the 2000 Z3 Homecoming at BMW’s Spartanburg Factory in South Carolina. My friend in England had a version of the Becker "Traffic Pro" unit in his Mercedes, he told me the Traffic Pro was actually going to be available in Europe for BMW. So, where’s mine?
Not available in the US. OK fine, I shopped around a bit for other units. BMW makes a GPS unit available for it’s other models, but it won’t fit in my little Z3 console. I don’t want a unit that sits on the dash, obscuring some of my precious view of the road and possibly interfering with the deployment of the airbags.
Besides, I don’t need to see the GPS- if it talks to me. I do know how to use a map. It’s one thing to know you want to turn left on a certain street- it’s another to recognize that street when the street sign is missing or obscured. That is how I ended up taking the wrong road from Pikeville, Kentucky to the Mountain Parkway instead of the Daniel Boone Parkway last year. Probably everyone in Pikeville, Kentucky knows the way.
Midnight found us pulled off the road in dark black nowhere half an hour into the Mountain Parkway. I bet it’s gorgeous by day. At night it is the stuff of which cartoons are made. Pitch black night, surrounded by those big white eyes. It was thick country darkness, lit only by the two bright yellow painted lines on the road reflecting our headlights.
I had a stack of maps and hotel catalogs, a computer and a cell phone, and I still had no idea where we were.
I asked the Y chromosome to check his GPS. Five words I will always remember:
"I haven’t got Kentucky loaded."
A GPS therefore is like a gun, or Pez dispenser. Not useful unless it is "loaded". His GPS uses memory cards to "load" the pertinent local information, the Traffic Pro uses CDs. GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) tells the unit where you are on the globe, the local information loaded in for that area translates longititude and latitude into useful information for you.
Stopping that night on the Mountain Parkway left us with only two choices:
1) Drive an hour or 2 more than we wanted into the night to get to Winchester, Kentucky, 100 miles away from where we meant to be that night
2) Go back to where we last saw a hotel and pray it was clean and had room for us.
What I know about GPSs is not much. Just tell me where I am, I do know how to use a map. And tell me out loud please, I don’t have time to stop and read. Happily the Traffic Pro does more than that. Traffic Pro will tell you where you are, where you are going, when you will arrive, where the hotels and restaurants are, and shopping malls and car dealerships and hospitals and parks and all sorts of other "points of interest"- and only when you want it to tell you. Traffic Pro will even turn down the volume on the music to tell you and return the music to it’s level, using BMW’s GAL and Speed Sensitive Volume. It does all this mercifully with 2 buttons. It also never complains about your driving.
2 buttons makes things simple. If it isn’t this button, it’s the other button. How is that for a manual, eh?
Traffic Pro means never having to ask directions, takes up zero space, replaces the in dash head unit- and it sounds better than the stock radio. Traffic Pro’s CD player also sounds better than my aftermarket head unit. There is another unit available made by another manufacturer, that does much of what Traffic Pro does, but it’s ugly and it takes 12 CDs to cover the United States. Traffic Pro fits the BMW decor, looks better than the stock unit and uses 2 CDs for the entire United States. Natch, the local information is less detailed in Traffic Pro.
2 CDs. I never have to hear "I don’t have Kentucky loaded" again.
Available? Well, I was just lucky. I pestered the folks at Becker, pleaded a whole lot, and sung them the sad story of Pikeville, and my upcoming plans to return to South Carolina via Kentucky. I offered to beta test their unit and mapping software in the US. I promised to take the unit into the backroads of half the country and put it through it’s paces.
I live in New York City, I am driving to South Carolina via Kentucky. Perhaps you have noticed that is not the direct route.
Congratulations, apparently you also can read a map.
The point is, I love driving my Z3 with no particular place to go, my car has a mind of it’s own, I seek the wind in my hair and the sunrise to sunset of a day of curves. How does Traffic Pro fit that profile?
Even a free spirit has to find her way home from Nirvana at the end of the day.
The installation of Traffic Pro in a BMW Z3 is blonde-proof. You could maybe chip a nail. If you can fish a wire, you can install Traffic Pro. Remove your head unit, clip the big plastic plug from the back of your old unit onto the Traffic Pro. There is a wire to connect to a plug down by the gearshift. That’s the whole Traffic Pro install. Then install the "antenna". Pull off the passenger side A pillar cover, and pull out your passenger side and center vents. Run the antenna wire from the dash down to the vents and plug in the back of the Traffic Pro.
Ta Da!
So much for install.
Traffic Pro is hooked in to BMW’s “Speed Sensitive Volume”, it will lower the music to talk to you and increase it’s volume when you speed up. Traffic Pro is checking how far you travel by pulses sent to check how much your wheels are spinning, so even when you go through a tunnel and the satellite loses touch, Traffic Pro knows where you are. Traffic Pro also monitors your reverse lights, so it knows if you are going backwards or forwards, orienting you to your line of travel.
Pick a voice, male or female. I picked male and named him "Bernie". Bernie is quite nice and has already taught me how much it helps to always say "Please." "Please make a U turn." I fell in love with Bernie when he helped me home from Becker headquarters in New Jersey. New Jersey, oy. I had missed the turn for Becker and had to drive to the next city to get back. Never have to happen again. Traffic Pro warns you in plenty of time to get into the right or left lane to take an exit or make a turn, and tells you how far around the circle you have to travel.
As much as I had intended to use the Traffic Pro for the big trip to South Carolina, as soon as I had it I started to find all sorts of uses for it.
My mother went in for surgery. I was so bereft I had a hard time concentrating driving to and from the hospital. Traffic Pro was a huge help. It’s like having a friend along with you who knows the way.
On the way home I was running out of gas outside the Lincoln Tunnel. 20 minutes in traffic running on empty. Traffic Pro found me a gas station 500 yards away outside the tunnel.
I decided to run an extra errand when I could use Traffic Pro to find a shop, and it told me I would be there in 15 minutes.
After running an errand to a place I had never been before, I could figure out which friend’s house was near enough to meet them for dinner.
Save that position! I visit your house once, I never have to ask directions again. Or if I wake up somewhere unfamiliar, I can get home.
On the way to see some real estate, a road was blocked. Traffic Pro found me a route around the obstacle. I even pushed the intercept button when I saw a puddle too large to drive through safely. Traffic Pro routed me safely around the block.
Avoid a traffic jam by asking Traffic Pro to restrict the route without highways or toll roads. Find lovely new backroads.
In New York City after September 11, there were lots of surprise roadblocks in the city. Traffic Pro helped me find my way through a war zone.
Pass up the fast food joint on the roadway because Traffic Pro says there are more choices ahead.
Having the Traffic Pro GPS is as necessary for an enthusiast as a radar detector like Valentine 1.
It’s gotten to the point where all the cars on group drives ask me over the radio "Rachel, ask Traffic Pro…".
Which brings us back to the Y chromosome in New York City. I drove because he didn’t want to drive my car in heavy traffic. This didn’t stop him from kibitzing and meddling and fiddling with everything in the car. Women understand that men have a problem in the passenger seat. Finally I tossed him the keys and said I was done, he could drive the rest of the way to his house in Pennsylvania.
"Great", said the Y chromosome. "Would you please put the Traffic Pro back on? I know the way of course, but …"
Traffic Pro, saving men from asking directions all over the world.


    It's 3 years later, time to identify the 3 Y Chromosomes in order:
  • Michel Potheau, Founder and President of the BMW Car Club of America, who encouraged me to write this article and Satch to publish it. I miss you Michel.
  • Dave Todd, my partner in crime
  • Dave Shurr, "Zeegar"
back to BMW Traffic Pro Home Page
Esmerelda's Page Esmerelda's Home Page~
all material on these pages is copyrighted