Knowing what is ahead, Traffic goes social on the iPhone

There are a variety of sensors in today’s roads that feed back to a variety of services you can use to see if the road ahead is flowing well or congested. If that isn’t enough, you can use several solutions to view road side cameras to see for yourself.

For close to twenty years now, I travel about an hour to the office in the morning and the reverse back home in the evening. Both ways, there are a several options to drive that I have had to find myself when traffic stops and I need to ‘keep moving’.

What I have not been happy with is the inconsistency of the colored road lines on my car’s GPS. It will show green ahead, I round the corner to find traffic stopped. Usually it is just past an exit opportunity to jump off and go the back route. Other times, it shows red a long ways ahead, then as the traffic suddenly clears as I pass a disabled car, the colors change from red to green where seconds before it was representing a very long wait.

Highway cams means longer time looking at the iPhone screen than watching the road, a very bad thing during rush hour traffic. I have even tried keeping tabs of co-workers over twitter to report to each other what we see. This ‘social’ traffic reports was good when everyone left within a half hour of each other but breaks down when work hours aren’t regular leaving people on the road to fend for themselves.

Enter… Waze! A free app (iPhone and iPad, Universal app) that pulls everyone in the area with a iPhone and Waze installed to share what they see. People report their progress, where accidents are, where police might be ‘hanging out to watch you drive by’ and other items that are key to a successful drive. This isn’t just for morning/evening work commute, the data is good all the time since someone is generally driving all hours.

The area around you can be viewed to see where hot spots are as well as points of interest. The bar across the top alerts you to new information (the above screen shot) and if anyone is reaching out to you socially for a comment or question. You can let others see where you are so Waze makes it easy to ask someone ahead if the traffic is as bad as your GPS says it is.

Turn by turn navigation is built in too so this isn’t all about watching traffic, Waze opens the door to replacing that dashboard GPS if it isn’t giving you the facts often enough.

A feature I loved on my 2007 car’s nav system but has gone away is the ability to be shown multiple routes that you can choose between. Sometimes a car’s nav system thinks it knows best while you may have heard on Waze’s social network that there is a festival ahead that you need to avoid, which a regular nav system wouldn’t take into account.

The Waze iPhone/iPad app works great for helping you get the real facts about traffic and accidents on your route. This feature needs others using the app so your successes may vary depending on the popularity of the app where you travel. Even without the help of the social alerts, it’s a nice navigation/GPS app.