MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Remember when going on a road trip meant unfolding maps, plotting your course, and writing out step-by-step directions? Technology has changed all that, with GPS units and map apps to track our trips.
Lisa Perlman traded in her GPS about a year ago, and now uses a map app with more called Waze.
“I really feel like I could never get lost as long as I’ve got this with me. It’s good for directionally-challenged people,” she said. “I’m telling you, it gets me there every single time. I’ve never had a problem.”
Waze is owned by Google, but it layers social media on top of the standard Google Maps and traffic management information to give real-time reporting.
Waze users report accidents, stalled vehicles and traffic jams, and it all gets factored into travel estimates.
“It also tells you if there’s heavy traffic coming up,” Waze user Susan Elder said. “People will text in and tell you different areas to avoid, so it’s a lot of different worlds rolled into one.”
Elder, a realtor with Keller Williams, discovered Waze while trying to find a newly-built home for a family. Her GPS didn’t recognize the soon-to-be address, but Waze did.
“It works out great, especially in real estate because I’m going into territories that are unfamiliar to me, or some that don’t even exist yet,” Elder said.
Wazers’ reports also include gas prices, which can be helpful, and police locations, which can be controversial. A warning even pops us when you rive close to a speed trap.
“I’ve had that happen and I will slow down a little bit,” Perlman said.
In fact, you can check a list of reports before even starting to drive to find out if there are any crashes, or cops, in your way.
“We were driving home from Eagan one day, and we put it in just to see,” Perlman said. “And it said in 0.6 miles there’s a hidden patrol car, and sure enough, we drove right past it.”
But how do the cops feel about all this? Isn’t there something wrong with people posting police checkpoints? Not if it makes people slow down, they say.
“If our goal was just to catch people, we wouldn’t have marked squad cars, full light bars, and wear full uniforms,” Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said.
And what about mounting your car phone on the dashboard to use it for navigation in the first place?
“It’s legal to use a telephone as a navigation device,” Roeske said.
However, that’s the limit. Interacting with your phone, even to punch in a new address or answer one of Waze’s pop-ups, crosses the line into distracted driving.
Waze is free but, like most GPS apps, it uses a lot of battery, so you’ll want to use a charger. It also senses whether you’re moving or not, and won’t let you punch-in any info unless you first punch-in that you’re the passenger.
Click here for more information about Waze.