Beating traffic with a live-feedback app

A new navigation app compiles data from a network of drivers and spits out a real-time traffic report

Smart & Resilient Cities News Atlantic Cities November 21, 2011
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A new free navigation app would use live feedback from a network of drivers to generate a dynamic real-time traffic report, allowing those drivers to adjust their routes accordingly, according to the Atlantic Cities.

The app, called Waze, differs from a guidance program that relies solely on computer algorithms. A driver enters a destination and receives a choice of routes. As the driver travels a particular route over time, Waze learns the driver’s preferences and takes them into consideration for future trips. The guidance itself is presented on a 3-D-style map and accompanied by spoken, turn-by-turn directions. The screen also tracks speed, remaining distance, and the time to the destination.

But Waze distinguishes itself from the standard, static route navigator by gaining intelligence as more users drive. Simply by turning on the app and hitting the road, users contribute GPS information to the central Waze system. That process creates smarter, live maps of an area or road and helps Waze offer you the most informed route guidance available at the time. If a neighbor who left the house 10 minutes earlier is sitting in traffic on the same route you plan to take now, for instance, Waze displays a red line that indicates the severity of the congestion

To accompany these automated traffic reports, Waze also lets users input incidents they encounter along their ride: accidents, construction, speed traps, even obstacles in the road. If the car is stopped in traffic, the driver can enter details about the delay or snap a photo of it. If the car's in motion, however, Waze disables typing to guard against distracted driving.

Altogether this input creates a trustworthy portrait of your commute before you reach the end of the driveway. Tech reporters who have tried the app have been impressed. Waze launched in 2009 in Israel but is now based in Silicon Valley. Its popularity rose a bit when it helped drivers avoid “Carmageddon” in Los Angeles this summer. Earlier this fall it launched a redesigned, cleaner interface.

In a head-to-head trial with another navigation app, Trapster, Robert Scoble of Business Insider gave Waze the clear edge because it's "innovating faster … and has more users." This last point is critical, because users, after all, are the source of Waze's strength. The more people logging miles on Waze, the smarter it becomes. That network is now reportedly 2 million strong in the United States, with some 8 million users around the world.

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