Sunday, January 08, 2017


Waze and Means

I have used the Waze application (for mobile phones with the Android OS) for a few road trips.  I like its "updatedness"--timeliness, its provision of information on incidents and solicitation of revisions from later drivers. I dislike the inefficiency caused by poor mobile phone coverage, and suspect that Waze avoids routing through such areas even if they might provide advantageous itineraries.

I have been using ViaMichelin to prepare driving plans for many years; sometimes I would print out the whole long itinerary, sometimes I would prepare (and print or hand copy) my own distilled version of the key turns and changes of direction. That mostly worked well. However, there were a couple of times their route instructions referred to signs which did not match those we saw (I had trouble navigating one junction with a competent navigator reading the instructions to me), and they tend to use street names for which one has difficulty finding signs, if there are any. Their instructions through Besançon pretty much always leave me lost in the middle of town wondering which way to head out. Once I pulled in to a bakery's parking lot and asked the first person who came by for directions; her first response was "show me your itinerary," presuming I had one (ViaMichelin or Mappy or something else) because, well, one should have a computer-issued itinerary, at that time in the progress of technology. Then one of the last times I tried to get through Besançon with a pre-calculated itinerary, I hailed a couple of young men I supposed competent to answer my question about where next to turn while we were waiting at a traffic light; they suggested we pull over to discuss it, and I accepted. They did not rob me, at knife point or otherwise, they indicated a right way to go, and suggested I buy I GPS navigation aide.

I don't consider a GPS navigation aide worthwhile for the little I travel. But when I was buying a next car, I did not reject one just because it had been equiped with a Garmin GPS navigation aide; nor did I commit to buying the Garmin map updates. For the few automobile trips I make to places I haven't been I can buy paper maps from IGN and others.

I used the Garmin GPS navigator on a trip a few months ago. I was annoyed by its insistance on using theoretically faster roads even if that meant a detour and a toll to pay. I later learned how to set it to avoid toll roads, but not how to accept them for a worthwhile time savings. It did not have real-time traffic information. It was no better than ViaMichelin for traversing a town center like that of Carpentras, which I think took me three loops (twenty minutes or more) to succeed. And then it took me up a mountain to a closed road, then around and down through a tourist-crowded village. I'm inclined to use it for details when close, not for choice of longer distance roads and routes.

The application Waze for "smartphones" equipped with GPS offers an alternative to devices like the Garmin navigator/navigon. It has the advantage of enabling users to annotate current conditions, providing reports of vehicles on the shoulder, dead animals on the road, mobile radar monitors, congestion, and so on. Or, for those who pass later, indicating whether or not the condition is still the case. And not asking for money.
Waze benefits from the interaction with its users, whether that be to monitor their progress and deduce driving conditions, or to provide a set of notifications of distractions and dangers.
Waze has a problem with areas having poor or no mobile phone coverage. It cannot provide information about current conditions if it cannot receive bulletins, which is understandable, but worse, it seemingly cannot track one's progress with GPS-only data, it needs to check back via a phone/data link to get server-side comments and recommendations. When coverage comes and goes, it may not "know" whether one is on the right road, may beep frequently while recommending to get on some road or other--which may be the one one is currently on. {comment from 2015)
To avoid this inconvenience, Waze may well--I would--avoid recommending routes through areas with poor mobile phone coverage, so as to prevent disappointment and frustration of users who expect constant tracking of their progress and next instructions. But then how does one navigate from Pirmasens to Niederbronn or Bitche?
Probably, Waze will transfer more data and software to the phone to navigate seat-of-the-pants and log and take notes and feed back recommendations, decisions, and outcomes later. But that is just a guess. Tags: :

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