Want to outsmart Traffic? Then get waze

Date:18 June 2012 Tags:, , ,

This free smartphone app shows traffic congestion in real-time, so you can avoid it.

IF YOU COMMUTE BY CAR, chances are you’ve often wondered how long you’re going to be stuck behind the wheel and, if you have the luxury of other options, which would be the best route to take. Well, here’s some good news – the information you require is almost certainly out there and ready to be accessed.

That’s where Waze comes in. This free app – available for download on nearly every smartphone platform imaginable – collates travel data from commuters’ cellphones to create a picture of how the traffic’s behaving in real-time. This information is then displayed on your phone in an easy-to-digest map form, along with audible prompts.

Working much like the free online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, it encourages community involvement, allowing users to input information on accidents, traffic jams, speed cameras, hazards and the like as they are witnessed. Then, because traffic flow is a dynamic beast, it automatically asks fellow drivers passing the flagged scenes to verify whether they still exist, effectively turning them into forum moderators.

Even if you’re not interested in playing an active contributory role, the mere act of driving means you automatically supply valuable information. Evangelos Gikas, product manager for MiX Telematics, Waze’s local partner, explains: “If you’re travelling along a road with a speed limit of 60 km/h but you’re only driving at 20 km/h, the system automatically registers a problem. This is indicated on the map by highlighting the road in various colours to show the level of congestion, ranging from yellow for light to red for heavy and black for gridlocked.”

Taking on an active role requires more involvement, but it’s by no means an inconvenience. When you witness something relevant, all you need do is hit the icon on your screen and a menu appears, providing you with various pictorial options. The icons then appear on the map for everyone else to see. Gikas elaborates: “You can also type in more detailed messages if you like, but because typing while driving is extremely dangerous, the keyboard function is only activated once you’re stationary.” When you pass a flagged location, a window appears and asks you if it’s still there or not; all that’s required is for you to tap a simple yes or no.

When Gikas took me for a drive into Cape Town from our Pinelands office to demonstrate Waze, I was duly impressed. As we approached the notorious Hospital Bend on the N2, an icon appeared, indicating a hazard. Then, about 200 m ahead, we saw it – a vehicle parked inside the yellow lane. At the same time, I could clearly see which roads were highlighted in red and best avoided. Works for me. – SW

For more information, visit http://www.waze.com/

‘One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.’ – Elbert Hubbard

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