What’s App? Navigation by Committee

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.

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Waze displays real-time traffic data as reported by other Waze users, so when it says another route is faster – however improbable – it likely is.

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.

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You (or your passenger) can report road issues, helping others avoid what you encounter.

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.

Dale Coyner is the owner of Open Road Outfitters, specializing in motorcycle campers and cargo trailers and the author of books on motorcycle travel.

3 thoughts on “What’s App? Navigation by Committee”

  1. When writing words like app, is this short for application. Also is this application to be used on your cell phone? Will this work on a cell phone offered by a specific company, which company offers this information. Thanks.

    1. Hi Bob, good question. The word “app” is short for application and it has come to be an accepted term for a software program running on a mobile device or tablet. Apps are also distinguished from applications in that they typically serve a very specific function. The Waze app runs on Android, Apple and Windows mobile devices. I should have included a link to their website, that was an oversight on my part. More information about Waze is avaiable here.

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