Simplify Your Drive: Waze

Waze LogoUnless you are fortunate enough to work from home and live on a beach on a remote island, you get around via automobile (or maybe a scooter). Even if you don’t commute regularly, most likely you have travelled to places where traffic can be a drag.

Waze was introduced to the market years ago to provide voice-guided GPS navigation from point A to point B. Although Google bought Waze, they have kept their navigation app, Google Maps, separate from Waze. Similar to Google Maps it allows you to see any road congestion from accidents, construction, lane closures, etc. The most obvious difference between the two applications is Waze is strictly for driving, while Google Maps has options for walking, bicycling, and public transportation.

What else sets it apart?

  1. Real-time Traffic Conditions

Waze is a crowdsourced application, meaning fellow commuters are contributing and reporting traffic alerts as they happen. Now that Waze has over 50 million users, the traffic notifications are as real-time as they can possibly be. With drivers using alternative routes to avoid congestions, Waze can now redirect you to the least congested alternative route as well.

  1. It makes driving fun!

One of the appeals of Waze is the way it is designed to be engaging. With a social and gamification aspect, Waze users can:

  • Learn the icons (i.e. traffic, police, accident, hazard, closure, etc.),Waze Icons
  • Drive your dream car by creating your personal icon (i.e. Ferrari, Fiat, Porsche, Smart),
  • Gain points for reporting along their route,
  • Reach different Waze Levels (from Waze Baby to Waze Warrior to Waze Royalty),
  • Receive “Road Goodies” as you drive through certain intersections,
  • Display Forum Badges to show off your devotion to Waze, and
  • Identify your friends, family, colleagues who use Waze on the road.
  1. It’s hands-free!

There were a few initial concerns I had with using Waze, including distraction-free driving. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to learn that you can activate Waze with a hand wave and voice-activated commands to “report” road conditions. Of course, you have to learn them. It is quite entertaining, especially to my 4-year old, to see me wave and yell, “Report Hazard, Shoulder, Animals” at my phone. (Note: The waving does not work when you are viewing the app in landscape mode on an iPhone.)

  1. Police Tracking Alerts

There is an opt-in feature that will alert you of speed traps, red light cameras, and other police sightings. There have been several reported instances where folks have reported false cop sightings, so it may not be the most reliable. (In other words, slow down.) A far more positive use of this is the recently introduced Amber alerts feature, which notifies users when you are driving through an area where children have been abducted.

  1. It’s free and available on all smartphones!

Other cool features:

  • Add Favorite Places: To get on the road quickly, save frequently visited places (i.e. home, work, etc.)
  • Calendar Alerts: Waze can send you an alert when to leave based on your Calendar events and takes traffic into account.
  • Share Locations and ETA to Friends/Family: Send your recommendations to out-of-towners by clicking “Send” from recent locations or through a search. If you’re meeting a friend, send your location and ETA.

Helpful Tips

  • Save power by charging your battery while using Waze or bring a back up battery.
  • If you are concerned about data usage, you can turn your Waze location access settings to “Never” when you are done using it. Turn it back on to “Always” when you need navigation.
  • To protect your privacy, you can use “invisible mode.” This prevents Waze from showing your location to other drivers.

Google Maps is still the go-to app if you use multiple forms of transportation. It’s the only reliable app for navigating through the city on foot, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory. However, if you are behind the wheel of an automobile or scooter (lucky!), Waze is the ways to go!!