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Beating the jam: Google Maps traffic alerts will help you get to your destination faster

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The new Google Maps Traffic Alerts feature vs Waze

Navigation apps nowadays have become such a must-have feature in our gadgets that it’s even proven hard to move from one place to another without their help. For most people, a GPS or navigation app is like a small whisper in your ear that keeps giving you directions especially when you fully know you have no idea where you are. It sure feels good when you don’t get lost huh?

Google Maps is one of the most common features from the search giant that helps in navigation to different places and now the company has added a feature that gives real-time traffic updates when customers out their apps in navigation mode.

Recently, Google unveiled Traffic Alerts, a new feature on Google Maps in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, which gives contextual information about traffic conditions. The alerts are enhancements to Google’s existing features that put map users on the best and fastest route to use and also summarizes what people need to know about traffic at that exact moment.

  • Google maps alerts
  • Green means that there are no traffic delays
  • Orange means the road has light to medium traffic. Some traffic delays might be expected.
  • Red colour means that the road has a lot of traffic delays. Dark red means that the traffic is really bad.
  • Grey is for the alternative route that a driver can take.

In a post they said: “Now when you input your destination, you’ll get a spoken alert for upcoming traffic conditions that helps you identify the quickest route. While you’re on the road, Google Maps will give you a heads up if congestion lies ahead, and how long you’ll be stuck in a jam.

Google Transit is another feature on Google Maps. The feature gives commuters useful information on which buses and matatus they should take for any destination including:

  • Designated matatu stages
  • Clear cut directions to various destinations
  • Distance and time it takes to get to various destinations
  • Shows which routes you can take especially with public transport: which matatus ply on which routes
  • Matatu schedule- what time the vehicles leave the designated stages
  • Alternate driving routes (without traffic)

With the Google Traffic Alerts feature now able to work in traffic-congested cities like ours, it would be interesting to see how it would be used by Kenyans alongside the like of Waze. The Israeli company, acquired by Google in 2013 for over 1 billion dollars has some several similarities to Google Maps but works differently – with different functions and navigation tricks – even though they are both owned by the same company.

The main features in Waze include:

  • Automatically calculates the fastest or shortest route
  • Learns frequent destinations, commuting hours and preferred routes.
  • Can send real-time updates to other Waze users about current route
  • More comprehensive information about road conditions
  • Higher emphasis on safety while using navigation

Both Google Maps and Waze do an excellent job in turn-by-turn voice navigation. Some of the notable differences between the two apps include:

Comprehensible interface

  • Waze’s aesthetics consist of rounded corners and cartoon-like caricatures as compared to Google Traffic Alerts. This is actually a clever way to get users to crowdsource information and with its current layout, the app also manages to collect more road data than it would normally do by increasing participation. It also almost makes navigation interesting and exciting with its graphics; as it also gives the perfect amount of detail as you drive.

Live traffic reporting

Waze can also has a feature that has the ability to send status updates to other Waze users. Unlike a situation where you’re navigating with Google Maps and happen to encounter traffic, in most cases the only way to let others know would either be via normal texting or via twitter (as most of us do).

Add- Ons

  • With Google Maps you get to choose your own adventure style of navigation and it also provides more information on driving choices. For example, if you want to go to Yaya, Google Maps gives you the options of the amount of time and distance you’ll cover when you use either a bus, private transport or when walking. The variety of options gives you the freedom to choose what mode of transport depending on how fast you need to get there.

Waze is more focused on users who are driving and how to get them fast. Google Maps also has the advantage of providing a list of restaurants and shopping outlets depending on where you are.

  • Google Maps also introduced a nifty feature where you can send an address from your desktop to your phone in Google maps making it an easier option if you have to for example rush out of the office to a destination you are not quite familiar with. All you have to do is type the address to your Desktop and let your phone’s GPS do the rest of the work as you head out.

While Waze can seem more comprehensive to some drivers, one major problem is its somewhat chunky interface that might be a distraction to drivers on the road. I would say that Waze works better if you have someone in the car helping you to navigate. Google Maps on the other hand has a cleaner interface and its map is easier to read.

The new Traffic Alerts feature on Google Maps can only be described as a sigh of relief especially with the millions of hours that we spend in Nairobi’s crazy traffic.

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