WAZE: free smartphone GPS & traffic smartphone app
Have you ever been sitting in horrendous traffic wondering “What’s going on up ahead?”, or even “Is there a detour past all this crap?” Well if you own a smartphone, then you have a resource at your fingertips. Waze. (Pronounced “ways”, as far as I am aware) This free smartphone app is user driven, and extremely well written. It’s intuitive and very informative. By user driven, I mean that traffic details are input by users. Details like accidents, potholes, speed traps and some traffic flow conditions are input in real time by other ‘wazers’ in the community. Additionally, the software takes the information from some (or all, I’m not sure) of the users currently online and figures out how traffic is flowing. It displays this information in near real time in the software on the phone’s window. The road color (if present) determines the level of congestion.
- Yellow = very moderate slow down
- Orange = moderate traffic
- Red = very heavy traffic
- Crimson = near stand still
Have you used Google Maps in the past for directions and navigation? Well since Google bought Waze a couple years back, it has been integrating the Waze data into Google Maps. Google maps has it’s place, but it wasn’t created for the sole purpose of getting people around on the roads. Waze is! Also, Waze beautifully integrates itself into your smartphone: from taking pictures of road conditions to you speaking your destination or speaking your road reports. Another benefit is that if you have cell service, Waze calculates routes on the fly from time to time. It will happily recalculate new routes during your travels without your intervention. As conditions ahead change, Waze will let you know by adjusting the time (shorter or longer) or adjusting the route. In calculating routes, it’s far quicker than my GPS unit. Also, my GPS unit has to be told that I need to make a detour. Waze will just do it for me. I’m not sure though, how good this will work out in “the sticks” where cell coverage is just about non-existant. Yes, there are GPS subscription services that provide traffic conditions, but Waze does it for the simple cost of a meager bit of data useage.
The above image shows Waze navigating through a traffic jam on the lovely L.I.E. or I-495. The purple line depicts the path of travel for navigation. The bar on the left tells you about how long it will take you to pass through the congestion. The box at the top tells you what your next exit is and any names it’s aware of. The bottom box tells you your arrival time, how much time from now until then and the distance remaining.
If a user has input a traffic hazzard, such as a vehicle stopped in the road, it displays when it’s within your preset alert distance. If you get to that point and see the hazzard, you can thank the person by tapping the thumbs up icon, or clear it by tapping the “Not there” indication.
When you near your destination, Waze will display a checkered flag. The purple line will stop on the road nearest to your destination.
There are many different alerts that can be present in Waze. Cameras (red light, speed, and dummy), police (visible and hidden) and various weather conditions too (rain, snow, flood, etc.). The above image shows you what a red light camera alert looks like.
All of the alerts and driving instruction shown on the various screens are accompanied by a very lovely female voice. Unlike typical stand-alone GPS receivers, the voice is not programmable. You’re stuck with her, but she is pleasant enough. This technology comes at a small price: Your data usage. I’m not sure how much is being used, but it isn’t all that much. If you do install Waze, take a cruise through the menu options. It it highly customizable. It’s also a pretty powerful ally when fighting day to day traffic conditions, and downright enjoyable on long trips away from your home area. Those cameras tend to sneak up on you!
One feature of Waze that I use often is inside it’s friends area. You can share your ride with your friends. If you’re going to meet someone, you can let them know where you are or what your ETA is going to be from right within the app. (they need to be Waze users as well and need to be running the app at the time) In the past, there was also a feature that would let you mark where your car is parked. That comes in handy if you’re parking at some large venue or airport long term lot. Finding your car after you’ve been away for it for some time in a sea of vehicles isn’t always easy. Likewise, if you’re a city slicker, kind of like I am and frequently have to park blocks away from where you need to end up, it can be a Godsend!
Have fun out there