We have been talking about Google Maps and their traffic system, but talk is cheap, so we took the app out on a road trip, and found out that things are not quite as promised. In order to give the app a true workout, we took a day trip across the busiest highways in North America, first in morning rush hour going one way, and returning back during the afternoon rush, reversing our trip.
Because we wanted to really give the system a workout, we chose a route that offered every challenge in modern driving, selecting highways with High Occupancy Lanes, which generally are much faster, express and collector lanes, where you can make adjustments to your path, and during peak traffic periods may offer time saving options to your daily commute, and several highway options, any of which on any one day can make a big difference in your overall travel time.
So we hopped in the car near Hamilton Ontario at 8 AM, just to make sure that we would be in heavy traffic, the two of us, one driver and one GPS operator. We programmed Google maps with a destination in Markham, so we have to cross the entire city of Toronto.
It didn’t take long to realize that we had problems. As soon as we programmed in the destination, we lost the traffic flow information. After several tests and re-programming, we concluded that Google had to leave some opportunity for third party developers to take Google data and apply it to a pay as you play applications. We forged forward, switching between traffic flow and navigation, but ultimately concluded that what we really wanted was a better app which would both navigate and factor in traffic flow.
Every cloud has a silver lining. Because we didn’t want to spend any money for the GPS app, we did a little searching and found an one called Waze, which claims to be one of the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. You can hookup with other drivers in your area and share real-time traffic and road info. I’m always open to new concepts, so a quick install, a bit to eat before we started on our two hour sojourn back across Toronto through afternoon traffic back to Hamilton.
My god, what a surprise, I’d accidently discovered the next generation of GPS programs. Waze takes specific data from other Waze users who are travelling in proximity to you, shows their location on your GPS system, with their vehicle speed and the opportunity to post both text messages and pics, which all the other users can see on the GPS screen. Beyond that, if your vehicle should stop, Waze asks you why, an accident, heavy traffic, whatever, and prompts you to send out a message. Waze also lets you post road construction information, gas prices and other data which can make your trip faster and cheaper.
The real question test of any GPS system is how well did it navigate your trip. When we pulled onto the highway, the estimated time for the entire trip was 1 hour 32 minutes; it ultimately took 1 hour 48 minutes. Not bad given that the worst of rush hour didn’t start till we were 45-minutes in to the trip. Waze successfully moved us between the collectors and express lanes on the 401, so we always were in the fastest set of lanes, and on several occasions, we saw text messages from other users who were ahead of us on the highway.
There is a pile of other features that Waze does, so I’ve added a link on the script page for this video.
By the way two down strokes. Waze reverses the concept of distracted driving. Using this app to it’s fullest is more like distracted GPS operation, so it’s best to be a passive observer is you are the driver, and this little puppy is a real battery drainer, so if your trip is of any length, plug in your charger before you start.