Traveling in a mobile society has it’s advantages. Using a GPS or Global Positioning System for navigation information makes traveling so much easier. With so many ways to get from point A to point B, todays mobile society has more than a GPS as an option. Google Maps, Apple Maps (although greatly criticized), Yahoo maps, Yelp Directories, and even Mapquest are all excellent solutions.
Although for some navigation, a paper map is still useful, for the most part, a GPS can determine a route to get you pretty much anywhere these days.
But with most of the mobile solutions, there are some limitations – for example, most GPS’s need to be updated periodically. These are not built to contend with real-time, real-life ongoing challenges. They are accurate to a point, and if you do not get a GPS that offers lifetime map updating, you may be working with bad information which can result in wrong turns and travel delays.
My last vehicle had an in-dash GPS which I thought was super cool at the time. It was, to a point. At the end of the two year period, I would have to pay a few hundred dollars to get a CD with new maps. I was unwilling to do that, so I just dealt with the inconsistencies that had developed over the last two years.
My next GPS was a small Garmin, which I then upgraded to a top-of-the-line Zumo, which coud be used either in the car or on my motorcycle. The Zumo is water resistant, programmable and can be operated in either motorcycle mode or car mode. The touch screen can be manipulated even if I am wearting gloves. I can swap routes with my friends and can download points of interest that appeal to me. I have all the Roadside America attractions set to alert me when I am near by. Pretty darn neat. right? I thought so, until recently…
I didn’t realize how limited my Garmin GPS was until this past weekend when I downloaded and started using the WAZE app. Yes, the GPS is still clearer and generally more reliable but WAZE (which was recently acquired by Google) brings a brilliant solution of crowdsourcing that has the edge when it comes to real-time reporting of road conditions.
The WAZE app was actually recommended to me by friend Brad Chasenore during a TechWebCast podcast. It was also recommended to me by Chris Voss of the Chris Voss Show, on another podcast. I was reluctant to get involved with another location based application because I just don’t want people to know where I am. But this past week, I was visiting my 88 year old mom who is taking classes on how to get the most out of her iPad, when she asked me if I heard about WAZE, and whether I had used it. Frankly, Mom knew more about the app than I did, which was a tad embarrassing… (I’m fessing up here!). As with any app I was skeptical and at first, I was concerned about an app that has a cute interface that represented me with a pink blob that looked a bit like an old “ABC” piece of chewing gum.
I had the opportunity to “road test” the app on a recent 1,000 mile trip along the East Coast. Real life experience using the app has made me a believer and here’s why:
- Waze is used by thousands of other drivers who are reporting real time information such as
- Location of police officers along the route.
- Location of construction hazards.
- Location of debris on the road.
- Issues like abandoned vehicles or animals on the roadway.
Waze is a social community for reporting driving hazards and conditions that is refreshingly simple to use and has crowdsourced real-time road conditions. And it’s free!
Recently purchased by Google, Waze recently started integrating Google Maps with the Waze Map reports, hopefully to create a newer, more powerful interface. Although they are currently under examination by the FTC, there is hopefully a strong opportunity for this powerful little app to have the benefit of a cash injection from Google.
Some of the reasons I love Waze is because it truly helps you get where you are going faster. Recently I avoided a serious headache when my little Waze app told me to go around an accident scene before I could even see that there would be traffic on my route. I use the app each morning, and it does evaluate which route will be fastest that day – one day it’s one way and the next day it sends me a different way. I am not 100% trusting the app yet, but it’s proving itself to be very reliable.
In addition, there is a cool gamification aspect that will keep you signing in more and more. Each time you report a hazard or a traffic jam, you are awarded points. Sometimes you are thanked by other drivers who you helped. The points accumulate and you “earn” different avatars. I am proud to report that in my first fifteen days, I’ve advanced to a Waze Warrior! But that’s not all. You can integrate the app with Facebook and Twitter and then compare your score to your friends score. You can compare your score to the leaders in the state as well. If that’s not enough, you can Facebook post or Tweet to let others know what is going on with the road.
Downsides to the app – it makes my phone heat up. It depletes the battery – I go from 100% charged to no battery – shutoff in about an hour even with no other apps running. Other friends who use the app have complained about cell phone quality dropping and even being unable to make calls while using the Waze app.
Plus, we don’t know yet what Google will do with the Waze app. Right now, I think it’s definitely worth having, especially if you are someone who commutes a distance or who drives alot.