Social GPS app Waze poses danger while driving solo

Aug 31, 2010
Tech

If you need a social network for every aspect of your life and you drive a vehicle regularly, you might want to look into Waze, a free crowd-sourced navigation app for iPhone. But, as with every new social network, the content is only as good as the community, which is still too small for Waze […]

If you need a social network for every aspect of your life and you drive a vehicle regularly, you might want to look into Waze, a free crowd-sourced navigation app for iPhone. But, as with every new social network, the content is only as good as the community, which is still too small for Waze to be a truly viable service.

Waze works like this: Register for an account with Waze, and turn the app on while you drive around your city. As you map the city, you can earn points Pac-Man style by “paving” new roads for the app. If you see speed traps, traffic jams, accidents or other road hazards you can use the reporting tool to submit the tip for other users to see. However, this feature poses an inherent problem. The app relies on your current location to denote these events, so unless you’re submitting reports while driving there’s not much point in doing so, as you can’t manually enter a location. Killing someone while entering in the location of a traffic cam isn’t helpful.

When using Waze’s navigation feature, the app learns routes as you drive them. I had issues with the app determining the correct locations, and it seemed to only be able to recognize numbered addresses instead of intersections or landmarks. Because Waze learns as it goes, if your city isn’t completely mapped, the app will often give you bad directions — meaning the route presented could take you miles out of your way. This unreliability is fine if you want to teach it how to get somewhere (If you already know where you’re going, opening an app for directions wouldn’t be necessary would it?), but is not good for unfamiliar areas. The app does include voice-guided directions, but these do not include street names (just “turn right”). And if you look at your phone to verify the name of the street, then you aren’t watching the road. Of course, if you have a handy navigator in the passenger seat, reporting and using Waze is much less of a safety hazard.

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Ultimately the infancy of the Waze community, the lack of reliable directions and the potential danger of using an app while driving makes this one to avoid.

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Kathryn Swartz

Kathryn Swartz is a freelance writer/editor who doesn't know how people lived pre iPhone. She attended the Missouri School of Journalism.

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