Meet Waze, the crowdsourced GPS

I’ve read a few things here and there about Waze, a crowdsourced GPS that runs on smartphones, including those that run Android, Apple, and Windows. Its premise is simple: Based on how traffic is moving, it figures out the fastest way to get where you want to go. It adds intelligence to the GPS.

The trade-off, of course, is that it’s tracking you too. The data is anonymized, they promise, but it’s up to you to decide whether it’s a showstopper.

It’s useful to me, though. There are about 17 ways for me to get to work and back. The best way takes 25 minutes if traffic cooperates. It can take an hour if traffic doesn’t. The second-best way rarely takes less than 35, and can also take an hour. There’s another route that rarely makes sense to take, but notice I didn’t say “never.” Venture onto side roads a bit, and there are lots of possible variations on those three themes.

Which way should I go? Waze knows. And if things go sideways on the way, Waze knows which detours to take and which ones to avoid. I also tested it driving around locally, running errands, and it directed me to the shortcuts that took me years to learn.

At least on my Motorola phone, it coexists with my podcast app, Dogg Catcher. When Waze needs to speak up, Dogg Catcher pauses, Waze says what it needs to say, then the podcast resumes.

Aside from possible privacy concerns, the only other issue I have with it is battery usage. If I use Waze for my commute to and from work, listen to podcasts both ways, and make a couple of phone calls during the day, my battery will be below 20% by the time I get home. Waze makes the phone work really hard.

If you have a short and/or predictable commute, you probably don’t need Waze. But if my commute situation sounds familiar, Waze might help restore a bit of sanity to your commute.

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