Monthly Archives: May 2013
This smart phone GPS application proves that crowd sourced navigation is working and it’s getting better.
At its core, Waze gives you voice-enabled GPS directions on your iOS or Android device. Best of all, it’s FREE. It’s still not perfect, but if you’re willing to trade a little routing efficiency for features you can’t find on other navigation apps, like real world travel times and up-to-the-minute, user-reported traffic jams, Waze is definitely worth checking out.
Here’s how it works:
Waze connects you to other drivers automatically (and anonymously) in the background. The app then pools data from everyone and channels it into more efficient, time-saving routing algorithms based on real-world trip data from other users, not just what the map data infers. This is essentially what TomTom does with its long-standing IQ Routes feature, but until Waze came along, we hadn’t seen it on a free phone app. On the display, cute little icons show you where other Waze users are as you drive.
Waze also knows that even if a route is technically shorter, you could still end up taking just as long as you would via the longer way on the highway, because of all the traffic lights. I had several instances where Waze nailed the ETA in actuality; whereas my Garmin’s GPS guessed I’d arriv earlier, only to adjust itself as the trip went on to eventually match what Waze had said all along.
Performance, Incident Reporting, and Conclusions
While en route, Waze doesn’t display the current road speed limit, and there’s no 2D or 3D lane assistance like on newer Garmin and factory supplied navigation systems. On the plus side, the colorful, animated traffic icons showing the current status and delay times looked very sharp on the map. Real-time traffic alerts worked well, and provided plenty of options throughout my trip.
Tap the exclamation point on the bottom right, and it will pop up nine icons to report an accident, police activity, heavy traffic, and other road hazards. In landscape mode, it will only show six icons, though; you need to scroll to the right to see the other three. Still, this is where Waze really shines; the app popped up plenty of real-time traffic alerts during a recent trip to northern Vermont and back. And on one leg of our trip, Waze popped up an alert that there was police activity coming up 400 feet ahead. And there was! There was a state police car at the side of the road with its lights on. Waze prompted me to either give it a thumbs up (meaning the report was correct), tell it that it was close but not exact, or tell it that there was in fact no police vehicle present.
The voice prompts were understandable, and the fact that it works via blue tooth helped greatly with low volume concerns. I also didn’t hear any pronunciation gaffes with Waze like I experience with my Garmin Nuvi.
If you want turn by turn, voice prompted navigation with real time traffic alerts, gas prices and hazard reporting – all for FREE – WAZE is the answer. Remember – this is a crowd sourced application so the more you put into it, the better it will become. Download it from the App Store or Google Play.