Navigate the daily commute with Waze

David Kook / The Watchdog

With the confusing roads and nightmarish traffic of the Eastside, there is no doubt that a navigation system that keeps up with traffic is essential for getting around town. Many modern cars come equipped with a navigation system, but for a college student like me a modern car isn’t a viable option. My 1990s Honda isn’t up to date with technology, but no in-dash navigation system is needed as long as I have my smartphone mounted on my dashboard.

Waze is an app owned by Google that incorporates community collaboration into its navigation. When using the app, drivers can report hazards on the road such as accidents, debris and even hidden policemen for other users to be warned of as they drive by. In addition to the contributions from users, Waze is constantly updated with traffic information and will direct the driver to the quickest route, even if it involves puzzling backroads.

After discovering Waze, I never went back to using any other app for navigation. Waze is by far the most user friendly and superior in design to the dreaded Apple Maps that comes standard on my iPhone. Unlike my experience with Apple Maps, Waze has never put me in danger by needing to be reconfigured in the middle of a drive. Once the address is typed in, Waze just works.

Waze leans towards a user experience similar to social media. When signing up for the app the user creates a profile, and can connect with other users by sending private messages, or Waze’s signature “Beep Beep” – a button that appears when a user’s friend is actively navigating on the app. When a “beep” is sent, the receiving driver’s phone honks at them to signal their friend’s greeting.

Waze was originally founded and designed independently and later bought out by Google in 2013. Google hasn’t changed the design to more closely match that of Google Maps, so Waze’s quality and originality has been preserved. The only difference is that Waze is connected to Google’s traffic information so it is always aware of the current state of traffic and can navigate accordingly.

Another great feature that Waze offers is assistance with parking. When nearing the destination in an urban area, Waze displays a pin on the map wherever parking is available in close proximity to the destination so the driver can be directed to a suitable parking space. When returning to the car, the Waze app remembers where navigation was ended and will show the exact place where the car has been parked. This of course does not work in a deep parking garage where navigation no longer works but when above ground, Waze is very accurate.

Perhaps the most unique – and potentially most helpful – feature on the Waze app is the ability for users to report and be notified of hidden policemen who are looking out for drivers to ticket. A notification on the screen pops up when the driver is approaching a hidden cop so that they can take caution and drive carefully, following the speed limit and traffic laws to avoid getting a ticket.

Compared to my experience with other navigation apps, Waze is by far the easiest and most beneficial to use. I can’t imagine how it could be worth it to pay hundreds of dollars for an in-dash navigation system when the Waze app is completely free and has more helpful features. Knowing what hazards are on the road ahead of me gives me peace of mind when driving somewhere, and the ease of use is relieving compared to how frustrating and confusing other apps can be. Out of all the ways I’ve tried to get around town, Waze is the best.