An Alternative to Google Maps
Have you ever been driving and your GPS tells you to turn left, when there's no left turn? Or perhaps the road is under construction, and you're stuck in traffic. While most GPS systems can get the job done, there's a new app out that is changing the way people drive. I took it out for some testing, and it's now the only GPS I use.
It's called Waze. What makes Waze different is that it's updated in real time. Users can input when there's an accident, how fast traffic is flowing, and if there's a hazard, so Waze can reroute you quickly. Users can also mark information as incorrect, so when a car is cleared, traffic starts flowing, or some prankster marks something for kicks, users can correct the issue. The more upvotes a notice gets, the longer it stays. It disappears when the downvotes make it reach zero.
I brought up the app just now, and I can see that traffic is flowing outside of the office at a speed of only 10 mph due to the appearance of a sudden pothole. It wasn't there this morning, so I went out for a look to verify. There it is! Another look at Waze shows me a lot of people are turning down a side street to avoid it, so traffic is getting bad that way as well. I marked both the traffic around my office and the pothole as accurate.
Another neat thing is it's incredibly customizable. Your icon starts off as the standard Waze logo, but you can add hair, turn it into a duck, and even dress it up for Halloween. Other Wazers are marked on your map (I currently see a queen duck, a sunflower, and a little guy with a sword). As this video with comedian James Veitch shows, you can even customize the voice and directions.
As you travel, you'll see familiar places such as restaurants. Not just their name, but their logos as well. You can even take a picture of the place and upload it so other Wazers know what to look for. Wazers can also share the price of gas, so you know where to go, where to avoid, and when it's best to fill up.
Everything you do, even just using it, earns you points, which also changes the way your avatar looks. The point system is a bit complicated in the way it allows you do things with Waze, but I'll try to explain. The more you do, such as marking an accident or traffic, gives you different point amounts. The more you accumulate, the more you're allowed to edit. This prevents new users from adding roads all over the place that another user will then have to fix. Your points also influence how long something -- like an accident -- stays listed. Again, this prevents new users from abusing the system. If you're a heavy user and stay active, you can even get paid by Waze! (If someone from Waze would like to pay us, that'd be nice!)
You can also connect it to Facebook and your friends. Last month, a friend got lost. I was able to use Waze to locate him. Some people don't like that function, but Waze also gives you the option to set yourself as invisible. You can save your favorite places and even your regular routes, so they're planned in advance. Every morning when I bring up the app, it immediately routes the best way for me to drop off the kids and head to work. You can also arrange to start a carpool with other people in your area who are headed in the same direction.