Monday October 1, 2012
New Waze for smarter motoring
ONE MAN'S MEAT
By PHILIP GOLINGAI
Step aside GPS, there’s now the smarter ‘crowdsourcing’ Waze offering optimal driving directions and more.
ON a traffic-jammed Jalan Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur, the newly-installed navigation app on my Samsung Galaxy S3 chimed and a message warned: “Police hidden. Jalan Bangsar. 545 metres away.”
It was noon and I was driving to a lunch tweet-up in Bangsar.
Half a kilometre later, indeed there were cops hiding behind some bushes.
Wow! What a clever navigation app, I thought.
Cleverer than my domineering 70-something mother who drives me crazy with her incessant turn-by-turn instructions when seated next to me while I’m driving.
Introducing Waze, the amazing social networking navigation app with the tagline “Outsmarting Traffic, Together”.
How does it work? First download the free app to your iPhone or android smartphone, sign up, set your destination and drive.
The app will provide turn-by-turn directions, with an automated woman’s voice telling you where to go.
“By simply driving with the app open on your phone, you passively contribute traffic and other road data that helps the Waze system to provide other Waze drivers with the optimal route to their destination, including live traffic information,” according to Waze in waze.com.
Waze is about “crowdsourcing”.
Here’s how it works: say you are driving 60kph on Jalan Bangsar, that information will be sent to Waze via the Internet.
It will analyse that data together with other data sent by Wazers, and it will know the traffic situation on Jalan Bangsar.
The fun part about Waze is that you can submit reports on accidents, traffic jams and “hidden” policemen.
There have been times when I wished there had been an accident so that I could report that there was an accident.
A few weeks ago, I was a Waze baby with a cute avatar – a pink quote bubble on wheels sucking a baby pacifier.
After 100 miles (about 160km), I graduated to Waze Grown-Up (I lost the baby pacifier).
The next rank is Waze Warrior, when I reach the top 10% of scorers in my region.
Waze has the inside knowledge of a taxi driver. It will suggest unconventional routes so that you can avoid a traffic jam.
With crowdsourcing, when there is an accident on the road, Waze will warn you not to take that route.
At first I did not believe that Waze was that smart.
Instead of taking a toll road which it suggested, I took the Federal Highway which on the Waze map was congested because of an accident.
Big mistake. I was stuck in a 30-minute crawl because drivers were slowing down to jot down the licence plate of the cars involved in the three-car pile-up in the other lane.
Waze also makes driving exciting. Instead of your habitual route, it would suggest a route that you did not consider for your favourite neighbourhood shopping mall.
It thinks of routes that you’ll never think about. Wonder if there is a Waze app for sexual positions?
As predicted by Waze, I arrived at La Bodega at around 12.35pm.
I raved about Waze to my Twitter friends. And I was not the only one raving.
Steven, a 40-something executive with a penchant for stepping on the accelerator rather too hard, has Waze on his Samsung Galaxy Tab.
He uses Waze to find out where the latest police roadblock is.
“Most of the time, it works. It helps me to slow down my car,” he enthused.
“Why do you need to slow down your car?” asked Isabelle Lim, a 23-year-old radio DJ with Traxx FM.
About a year ago, Isabelle discovered Waze when she moved from Penang to Kuala Lumpur.
“My friend said, ‘if you ever get lost (in KL), don’t phone me, just use Waze’,” she related.
Now she’s a Waze addict, using the app for her daily commute to work and for finding the most “obscure location” (i.e. a shoplot in the middle of nowhere in Subang Jaya).
One of Isabelle’s gratifying moments with Waze was when she was driving towards KL International Airport at around 10pm.
“It was a really lonely drive as there were no cars on the road. And I could see a Wazer approaching from the opposite direction on the Waze map.
“It (the Waze icon) was approaching, approaching and then the driver of an Alphard highlighted at me,” she said.
“I should have highlighted back but I was new to Waze and I was so surprised that people on Waze were friendly and nice.”
If you have passion for maps, you can edit and update the Waze map.
On Sunday night when Googling articles on Waze, I found that one of the top three record-holders in solving user-reported Wazer map problems is based in Malaysia.
He’s Andreas West (also known on Waze as a4xrbj1), a Waze Royalty (that’s his ranking) who operates a Facebook account (Waze in Malaysia) to “expedite editing tasks such as unlocking roads.”
His latest project is to record AES (Automated Enforcement System) speed cameras.
I hope to meet up with Andreas so that we can go “wazing”.