It is unusual that I’m endorsing the Waze traffic app this week, because I do not have the Waze app on my phone. But I just finished up a 1,500-mile road trip over the Christmas holiday, and my navigator used it to great effect.
It is also remarkable because I spent a good deal of time during the first few hours of said road trip talking smack about the Waze app, insisting on using Google Maps, which works just fine, thank you very much.
But I’m a Waze convert.
Just like Google Maps, it uses mapping software and geolocation to plot the best routes between you and your destination.
It differs, however, on one key point: Waze is crowdsourced with a social-media function that collects data from other drivers on the road both passively by monitoring road speed and actively by allowing drivers to report things like construction, cars parked on the shoulder of the road and speed traps. A gaming mechanism awards points for interactivity, which means that when you take a road trip with Waze, you can win.
It differentiated itself from Google Maps almost immediately, guiding me around tricky traffic patterns between Richmond, Va. and Washington, DC that can sometimes leave me in gridlock for an hour or two. And it helped us find a Starbucks in Maryland.
But the most important testimony concerns the last leg of the trip, when I assured my wife she could shut down the Waze and I would guide us that last 100 miles or so without the benefit of instruments. I made a wrong turn almost immediately that added two hours to our trip. After that I vowed that I’d never again make a long drive without using my newfound friend.