Mobile apps are nothing new anymore, but for those who are very late to join the smartphone game, there is a wealth of cool stuff that is handy for motorists who are trying their best to survive Metro Manila gridlock.
One such app is Waze, and it has already gained ground as an essential motorist's app. It even made the news recently when it was purchased by Google for $1.3 billion. It is estimated that Waze has 50 million users worldwide. Although I don't have the exact numbers about how many "Wazers" are active in the Philippines, I do know that if more of us use the application, the more effective it will be. Why? Because Waze works best when more people are online and using it.
Here's the lowdown on the app and how it works: First and foremost, Waze is a navigation app that uses the GPS and the cellular data of your smartphone to pinpoint your exact location on the map. At first, it seems like any run-of-the-mill navigation program, except it takes things to a whole different level when the social-media aspect is thrown in. You see, each Wazer that is online can give real-time traffic reports. Waze then compiles all of this data and displays where all of the traffic is on the map.
Taking things a step further, Waze also uses the GPS signal of each user and correlates it with traffic reports. This then displays the average speed of the moving traffic on any thoroughfare that is used by a large number of motorists. Keep Waze running and it will even raise a prompt and ask you if you are in traffic if it notices a slowdown. How cool is that?
Traffic reports aren't the only things that are displayed on the map. Users can report accidents, hazards, speed cameras, construction and police. If you are driving toward any of these things, Waze will provide a vocal prompt warning you about what lies ahead. If these reports are false, you can provide input by confirming whether the hazard is there or not. Users can also post photos of the traffic, or any accidents.
In effect, with more people providing real-time reports, the more accurate the entire picture of the metropolis traffic condition will be at any given time.
Here are a few tips for maximizing the Waze experience:
1. Trust it. Using GPS navigation in Metro Manila was something that I couldn't put my head around back then, especially with the U-turn slots and one-way traffic schemes. However, Waze is very advanced. In fact, it has helped me discover new routes and shortcuts. And U-turn slots can be safely navigated, too. Of course, when in doubt about a route or a direction prompt, common sense should always prevail.
2. Choose your way. Once you have entered your destination, it is up to you to choose the route you will take. Traffic slowdown along your selected route will also be identified. This is great when you want to bypass the gridlock.
3. Keep your eyes on the road. Waze will not let you interact with it if it notices (through the GPS signal) that you are traveling at speed. In the interest of safety, a prompt will appear that will ask if you are a passenger. If so, you can post reports and updates. Besides, it only makes sense to post reports if you are at a complete standstill.
4. Stay online. The only drawback to Waze is that cellular data is needed for it to work. You need an Edge, 3G or LTE signal. You don't really need an unlimited data plan, but your cellphone bill will skyrocket without it. You've been warned.
5. Have fun. There's a ranking system within the program, too. The kilometers you've logged, the reports you've made, and the number of Waze friends you have on Facebook will elevate your ranking. The system is pretty fun, and it keeps things entertaining.
6. Edit. Waze's maps can be revised by the users themselves. As long as Wazers care about the program, maps will constantly be updated.
Waze is a work of genius. Gone are the days when you had to buy a bulky GPS unit that only had a single purpose and required constant map updates from a supplier. Now, all you need is a smartphone to provide user-generated reports.
So, are you on Waze yet? If not, it's time to download it. The best part is that it's free.
Are you a long-time user? Feel free to post any additional tips that you might have in the comments box below.