You’ve probably already read that I very much enjoyed the Twist app for keeping me updated accurately with my arrival time through different detours and heavy traffic, which it did very well without having to get directions over and over on Google Maps. I’ve always thought though, if only someone would track GPS data from people’s phones to keep minute-by-minute track of changing traffic, and use that to re-route the people behind traffic jams, we could all get home a little faster.
Throw in a few more things and you have the Waze app:
- Millions of users sharing GPS data to know exactly when and where traffic occurs.
- Routing around heavy traffic to get you to your destination as fast as possible.
- Each user has the ability to report accidents, cars off to the shoulder, hazards, and visible or hidden police cars.
- You can add a stop on the way, or even search for coffee or anything else along the way, and it will give you an ETA at each location.
- You can search for gas, and it will find you the cheapest gas station on your route, as reported in real time by the millions of users of the app.
As you can see, the more people using this app, the better it becomes. On my drive down the 101 South out of LA, I snapped this picture of 7 other Waze users, 3 reported police cars, the upcoming freeway speed of 22mph, and someone who had just said, “Hi” to fellow Wazers. Later when there were cars reported on the shoulder and police cars reported on my route, the app popped up a warning telling me about them and it was 100% accurate. I was immediately hooked and started reporting things I saw myself and earning points within the app.
When you tell the app you’re looking for gas, you can see all nearby gas station prices, or filter it to stations along your route, find the lowest price, and route yourself there. This was especially useful with the phone plugged into my self-installed auxiliary port, as the voice told me where to turn and I could glance down at the upper-left corner to see which lane I should be in and how far I had before a turn. You can do the same for restaurants, coffee, stores, etc., just without the price comparison.
My absolute favorite part of the app though, and what makes it many times better than Google Maps for car navigation, is that it routes you around heavy traffic really well. I thought this was one of Google’s fortes, giving you a few “suggested routes” and being able to see traffic, I had assumed that it was doing the best it could to go around heavy pockets of slowing. It turns out Waze does it way better.
Here, I snapped a screenshot of it diverting me around incredibly slow traffic on the 5-South, along the 710. The entire way was clear, with only a small wait to merge onto the 710-North – and when I got back to the 5, it was moving again and I could see the traffic behind me. It did this many other times to get around the 101-North using the 10, and another pocket of slowing on the 5-South using the 91. Every time I’ve used one of these routes so far it has been obvious that I’m getting around totally stopped traffic that I used to just sit in when using Google Maps. I know it’s working well because it isn’t the same every day, sometimes it will take me straight up the 5, other times there are other diversions around traffic. Every time you see a bunch of “bumper-to-bumper” traffic reports together as in the screenshot to the left, those are reports from other Waze users yelling, “Go around! Save yourself!” So do it.
If you’re wondering how well it does in your area, load up their live map on the web. You can see current Waze drivers, traffic, and hazards in real time.
The app is on both the App Store for iPhones and Google Play for Androids, and it’s free! Just search “Waze”, or click one of the links on their site: http://www.waze.com/. I don’t make any money for promoting it, but I want to help make everyone’s commute better – and if more people start using it, we’ll all see traffic jams and hazards coming up instantly and be able to help each other avoid them. If you do pick it up and like it, leave a comment below to let me know.