What, Another Navigation App?

In Tech by UFSocial Staff

by David Lantrip, UFSocial Contributor

Maybe you’ve heard of the navigation app Waze and asked: “What’s the point?” It’s a good question. Every smart phone has a navagation app already and if not there are plenty of them out there. Even if you’re stuck with an old flip phone your car probably has a GPS unit, either built in or portable. There’s more to it than just that, and thinking of Waze as just an app to get you to points A, B, C and back means you’re missing out on a lot.

The Power of Data

Waze collects data from users (don’t panic, it’s all anonymous) to display traffic conditions in real time. When you look at the app you will see areas of red in some areas of heavy traffic and the average speed of other Waze users in that area.

A typical day on Waze, with custom avatars, traffic hazards and police activity

A typical day on Waze, with custom avatars, traffic hazards and police activity

Along with the passive data collection Waze also takes advantage of crowdsourcing, which is where things really get good. While a user is out and about he can click on different icons to report traffic jams, accidents, hazards or police presence, either in the open or in hidden speed traps. All of these help other drivers avoid traffic or tickets. Another nice feature to keep you out of trouble is the opportunity to report red lights or speed cameras. To avoid unneeded panic and slamming on brakes the app will only alert you to a speed camera if you’re going over the speed limit.

Waze users can also contribute to a sort of Wikipedia of maps by reporting problems with the map and contributing photos of landmarks so that other users can recognize the place as they arrive. To help save gas money users can report gas prices, adding to the information everyone can use.

It’s All About the Social

 What good is an app if it doesn’t let you stay connected with all of your friends? Of course Waze has a social component and users can connect it with their Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. This connection shows you friends who are on their way to Facebook events, share on Twitter and check in when you arrive at your destination.

Waze can also help you find new friends. With the messenger function users can get in touch with other Wazers, probably just to tell them to get out of the fast lane when they insist on going under the speed limit.

Playing Games

 To keep things interesting and give people an incentive to use the app it incorporates elements of gamification. Each user gets an avatar that can be customized once enough points are earned by using the app, and additional exclusive avatars are unlocked once different levels are reached.

The app also places little treats in the user’s virtual path so extra points are earned by running over them. There are levels that are attained as the app is used more, earning prestige and extra rewards just like in an airline’s elite flyer program.

Potential Problems

Two potential issues have cropped up with Waze: the issue of texting while driving and reporting police activity.

Law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that the reporting features of Waze could hamper traffic enforcement or endanger police activity.

Law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that the reporting features of Waze could hamper traffic enforcement or endanger police activity.

Texting while driving is very dangerous, and many states and cities have passed laws against it. Yet here we have an app specifically meant for driving and texting others who are also driving. We might wonder why that would be encouraged but thankfully the developers have worked around the dangers of texting and driving. A Geektime article argues that by using the app to share drives with friends and coworkers or using it to send their ETA, users will not have to text to let people know they are on the way or running late.

What of messages between drivers through the app? It is set up so that messages are not delivered until the recipient is at a stop. This is a smart measure but all drivers still need to be very careful and aware of their surroundings. In addition drivers can alert the app to traffic conditions through voice commands rather than taking their eyes off the road.

Various law enforcement agencies and their advocacy groups have argued that the ability to note the location of speed traps would hamper their enforcement efforts and compromise driver safety. Waze spokesperson Julie Mossler argued otherwise, saying

“most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby.”

Waze was originally developed by Bluerun Ventures and was purchased by Google for an estimated $1.3 billion in 2013. Early that year the app won an award for best mobile app, beating out other contenders including Dropbox, Square and Flipboard.

About the Author

David Lantrip is the director of education at Franchise Concepts, the franchisor for Deck The Walls, The Great Frame Up and Framing and Art Centre. He also is a contributing writer to Picture Framing Magazine, the industry’s leading trade journal and teach a number of classes at their annual trade show.

About the Author

UFSocial Staff