Harman TrafficPro

At Homecoming 2000 last Labor Day Weekend, there was an additional commotion beyond the regular vendor area frenzy.

Harman Industries of Harman/Kardon kept a Pistachio Green roadster in their tent to show off a special head unit called the TrafficPro. This gadget is befitting of our “Bond-cars” in that aside from being a DIN-sized in-dash CD Player, it integrates a GPS Navigation system.

The current dealer-installed BMW Z3 Navigation System made by Philips consists of a bulky CD-ROM reader to eat up precious trunk space and a prominent LCD pod mounted above the center vents certain to incite a glimmer in the eye of any passing thief.

The Harman TrafficPro sports a dot-matrix display with backlighting and knob trim that glow amber to match the original BMW instrumentation. And why shouldn’t it? According to one of their reps attending Homecoming 2000, this unit is intended to be OEM equipment for future Z3s. Harman’s plan was to have this unit available in European Z3s followed by inclusion into Stateside roadsters.

Update from Harmon: Approval in Europe is for the BMW Accessory Group

In a preprogrammed demo mode, the TrafficPro showed off guiding the driver using a male/female selectable voice by indicating how far the upcoming turns ahead were. The display named the road you were travelling on, the next road, a pointer with remaining distance, and a graphical bar that illustrates your progress until that next turn. The screen gives you the critical information you need at a glance while keeping your eyes on the road.

All this is backed by the accuracy of GPS and a data CD-ROM. Where the old Philips system requires stopping and unloading the trunk to swap out one of SEVEN discs for a coast-to-coast roadtrip, the Harman TrafficPro covers the entire United States on only TWO discs that get inserted into a disc-slot behind the flip-down display. The 8 megabytes of memory allows it to store approximately 50 destinations along with 50 last arrived destinations. The unit is able to compensate if the driver goes off the planned course and features several modes of route computation probably most important to us twisty-seekers is highway-exclusion mode.

Update from Harmon: The 8 Mb memory does not directly relate to the capacity for destination storage – however, I believe the T/Pro storage capacity for destinations is bigger than Travelpilot and VDO systems. The 8 Mb is more relative to the speed of data loading and, modifications while driving as well as, the number of times the system requires disc access during operation.

Turning the right knob scrolls through state, city and street while pressing it makes the selection. The TrafficPro allows music to be played while the navigation system does it’s thing. The volume of music can be mixed independent of the navigation voice. Nice touch.

While the new wizz-bang features dazzled, more typical concerns like how it integrates into the Z3 were assuaged when the Rep indicated this head unit used BMW’s proprietary I-BUS control system to operate the existing 6-disc trunk changer. Furthermore, since this was intended to be OEM, the head unit would simply plug-n-play into the factory DIN connector. In addition to a detachable faceplate, the TrafficPro uses a similar code lockout like the stock cassette head unit. Since the introduction of the Z3, thefts of the stock head unit have virtually been unheard of likely due to widespread knowledge that they are worthless without the code.

The rep claimed that this unit was supposed to be available when the Z3 was first introduced and that was why all roadsters featured a recessed shelf underneath the instrument pod for the GPS antenna module that comes with the TrafficPro. Obviously, no such unit was offered and 1996 model year Z3s built for the United States only shipped with the stock cassette head unit.

Fast forward 7 months since Homecoming 2000 and no word of a new Z3 navigation system has been heard. If it were available, tidbits of information would’ve been trickling into the message board from new Z3 owners. Curious as to the progress of the TrafficPro into BMW’s family of accessories, I contacted Harman International directly.

Rob Barnicoat fielded my call and indicated that the TrafficPro was indeed already approved by BMW of Europe. Fellow IRC Chat bud Fred Kern points out this page apparently showing European availability. As for the United States, it has been languishing under OEM consideration by BMW North America. (Does this sound familiar, E36 M3 owners?)

Complete TrafficPro Hardware – Click for Close Up ViewMr. Barnicoat patiently reassured me that the TrafficPro does use the I-BUS controller for the CD changer and that it uses an adapter harness to connect into the Z3. It’s up to BMW to determine what the TrafficPro will cost, but I suspect it should be roughly in the same ballpark as the old Philips Navigation System …minus the additional bulk and disc requirements. He was delighted that he is still getting inquiries from interested Z3 owners about the TrafficPro, however the demand is misdirected. We gadgetfreaks should be asking the Z3 Brand Manager at BMW North America when they’ll include this into the family of Z3 options and accessories. It probably wouldn’t hurt to also let the dealers know it’s time to retire the stock cassette head unit next to the 8-track and to let us have our TrafficPro.

For More Information: Hand-out spec-sheet from Homecoming2000

BMW of North America

1 BMW Plaza

Montvale, NJ 07645

1-800-334-4BMW

Harman/Becker Automotive Systems

39001 West Twelve Mile Road,

Farmington Hills, MI 48331

TrafficProHelp@harman.com

248-994-2100