September 7, 2012 by quirkyuncle
If you are, like me, one of those people who can’t make it to the end of their own street without getting lost, you probably would benefit from using a GPS navigation device. I’ve had a dedicated unit in my car for several years. It has gotten me to places I’d still be looking for without it and has saved me lots of embarrassment.
I heard about the free WAZE application about a year ago and have been using it as my primary GPS navigator ever since. It works pretty much the same as any other GPS navigation system, with one brilliant exception: WAZE includes real-time traffic data.
Spoiler alert! WAZE is supposed to be the navigation tool used in the upcoming iOS6 release for Apple iPhones, coming this Fall.
WAZE uses a concept called crowd-sourcing. Basically, everyone using the application transmits location information back to WAZE and they use this data to update the traffic information on the maps you see in your car. If you see a backup ahead on your mapped route, you ask WAZE to send you a different way. WAZE then provides you with several options to choose from that include mileage and estimated times based on current traffic conditions. This is totally amazing and has saved us hours on our last few road trips!
When using WAZE, you are also advised in advance of upcoming hazards other users have seen and reported… accidents, traffic jams, disabled vehicles in the road… police officers using radar… all sorts of useful things. You can help others by reporting hazards or indicating that they are gone, too. The application includes options that allow you to communicate with other users via text messages and has built-in games to help break the monotony of travel for your passengers. All features can be customized, so you can configure WAZE to operate as you like – pure driving function or complete passenger distraction is entirely your choice. Complete information about WAZE is on the WAZE website (www.waze.com).
Remember, distracted driving is deadly! To use WAZE in an interactive fashion while on the road, you need to have a someone operate it who is not driving. If you intend to use WAZE purely as a navigation assistant, you’re OK on your own, provided you do all the setup operations while parked.
WAZE is available as a free application for most smartphones from the WAZE download page (it will direct you to the application store for your specific device). You can also run WAZE on your computer as a web application here to see how it works.
As with all GPS units, you don’t always have to listen to it. In fact, if you do know a good route and there is no traffic, I’d suggest following your own experience and forget the GPS unit. Not all technology is perfect, after all, and sometimes we humans just might know a little bit more than our fancy devices.
The following image is a perfect example of this and is no joke. It shows how our Garmin GPS decided to route my daughter from Virginia to Connecticut, going around the Great Lakes and through Canada. Nice! (She wasn’t aware of the circuitous path until it started taking her in an obviously weird direction, since she was using the turn-by-turn view while driving. Suffice it to say, this made an interesting afternoon for her along a road far less traveled, once she figured it out.)
Bear in mind that any application such as WAZE, that is always on while you’re running it, will drain your phone battery dead in a few hours. If you intend to run WAZE for more than a short trip across town, you’ll need to keep the phone connected to a car charger. I talk about how to choose one that won’t fry your phone, with a link to information about the one I use, in my posting Beware of imitations: sometimes you do get what you pay for.