A couple of weekends ago I was traveling with a buddy of mine to Lake Tahoe, CA for a bachelor party weekend. As we set out on our road trip, my friend pulls out his phone to show me this ridiculous, free app called Waze that he’s using as our turn-by-turn navigation guide. I was skeptical at first; the data that the app utilizes is completely user-generated by the other people using the same roads as you are. What are the chances someone else would be using this app and be on the same route as us? I would soon find out.
Just having Waze open generates most of the content used by the app. Traffic jams materialize when you or another driver slows down creating a red line that follows your path. Along the route fellow drivers can report accidents, hazards, and even Highway Patrol that appeared as icons on the route map. This is great because now others can see where you slowed down and can decide on alternate routes based on what you or other drivers are experiencing. In addition, Waze gives you new route options, and estimates how much faster or slower each will be. As a safety feature, the app blocks any typing within the app while your moving so reporting is done by a couple of simple taps on a menu of icons that a typical commuter would encounter. To determine your ETA, the app recognizes, through GPS, how fast you are moving and how fast others on the same road are moving. In our case this feature was accurate within 10 min of the app’s estimation.
To top it off, the app has a pleasant voice navigation that’s explicit about where and when to turn, even at the gnarliest forks in the road. When we were about to arrive at the cabin our Waze app told us to turn in 100ft, 50ft, and NOW!
An updated version of Waze was released a few days ago that includes a new user-generated data feature to help you find the cheapest gas wherever you are. Genius.