You’ve probably used navigation aids for a while now, things like mapping programs, GPS, app-based maps, etc. While they’re enormously useful, they do fall short when you find yourself paddle-walking a bike in bumper-to-bumper traffic with no end in sight. Sure, some devices show real-time traffic info, but it’s up to you to identify trouble spots and figure out how to avoid them.
Enter Waze. This app collects real-time data from its users cell phones, allowing the service to flag trouble spots immediately along your route AND to identify faster alternatives when the current route is really backed up.
It works, as I discovered last summer. I was headed to Florida, not realizing that my departure date coincided with the end of school. The Waze app calculated my preferred route and spit on it, offering me a series of roads I would never consider taking. At first, I thought the route was a bug. There’s no way going through Dale City, VA would get me to Fredericksburg faster than a straight shot down I-95.
Turns out, the app was right. While another riding buddy followed the Waze route, I stuck to my own. And what was normally a 45 minute trip turned into a three hour slog in painful stop and go traffic. Then, the route opened up, just as the app predicted. Meanwhile, my friend got to Fredericksburg in a sane 60 minutes, had lunch–and a nap–while I practically walked my bike the whole way.
I can tell you that whenever that app made a new route suggestion, I was all over it. I never got stuck again. And I never heard the end of it from my friend.
Waze works by constantly collecting your position data and feeding that into a cloud-based computing architecture where data can be analyzed and reported. This is especially beneficial because new traffic delays are instantly detected as Waze users begin to slow down. Users can also actively contribute by using the app to flag items like road hazards, police locations, and more, which are then communicated to other Waze users along the route.
If you don’t like having data collected about your whereabouts, this may not be the app for you. As for me, it’s worth the trade-off. And the silence.