Waze community driving: still not quite there, though fun to use

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I’ve been using community mapping/navigation Waze for quite some time now. And while the latest Android version works much better on my HTC EVO 4G, the UI-wise there are still some problems. Or I simply have wrong expectations (which is quite possible).

First of all, their “dynamic zooming” doesn’t seem to work on EVO at all. Yes, you can see the map with your car/area, but it doesn’t seem to correctly set the zoom level — slowing down should increase zoom, I presume, and speeding up should show highway level map. No dice.

Then, supposedly it should be “learning” your routes. What I expect from something that is “learning” is after a few times you drive, say, from home to work and back, is for Waze to start telling me about possible problems on the route and loading the whole status as soon as you start down the “regular” road.

Specifically, when I head back home, it should say something like “On your regular route southbound: (!) Traffic jam, 2 police traps”. The reality? Nothing of a sort. In fact, it doesn’t seem to pull the traffic information until you are, well, in traffic, even if you have a bird’s view of the highway. While, for example, Google Maps successfully shows the whole highway status practically in a few seconds after opening it, for Waze it takes several minutes.

Looks like for the sake of not distracting, any information/updates (except fot police traps) don’t normally appear until you stop at the traffic light. Which also makes them way less useful.

Editing of the roads: this is a nightmare that only the bravest ones can master. Or somebody with a lot of time. I was driving around the new neighborhood that is still being built-out, so I thought I’d turn on “road building mode”. And it was working fine, except where I drove around, it just got sent out to the server, and disappeared from the map. I would expect that it’d be added either at least for me, or for everyone as “submitted road”. But no, you have to go into road editing part of the service from the desktop and edit it there (updating process description). Not much of an instant gratification. Practically, it means that the new neighborhood has been missing from the map for about 4 months now, as there aren’t too many Wazers in my area. So much for instant gratification.

Also I’ve seen mangled graphics way too often in the application, where letters show as squares, highlighted buttons show junk, etc. Kinda like a memory corruption. But restarting the app a few times usually clears that up. I suppose it could be my phone giving up electronic ghost but so far nothing else (even games) had this kind of issue.

Now the things that work well:
It no longer reboots my phone. Yay. This was a problem with previous revisions and firmware on EVO 4G — having GPS on and working with data transfer would reboot every so often.

Police trap warnings do work when someone happened to report them.

And every once in a while the map goes bonkers with some bonus points/prizes — that’s probably the most fun you can have, as regular roads become point-free pretty quickly. I think Waze should be more generous about throwing around some bonus points just for the heck of it.

What I’d like to be fixed first:

Predictions/usage patterns. Waze knows the routes, it should be able to figure out that you’re probably driving to/from work, and give you the updates. Heck, even though you’re not using the app for directions, it should be able to chime in and say “take next exit to avoid traffic jam”. I know it’s a difficult problem to solve but not impossible.

Gas Buddy integration. Make a “Gas soon” button and have it pull the list of gas stations, mark them up on the road with cheapest ones highlighted in green (or, for example, pull the average in the area, select cheapest 10%, show them on the map). Additional button “take me there”. That would be very useful.

Directions. When I do try to use Waze for direction, I suffer from the same “fantom turns” problems as usual. I’d be going down the interstate and Waze suddenly wakes up and starts to demand to “turn right, then turn left”. In the middle of the highway. All because map has some sort of a bump/kink in there, and instead of “stay on IH-###” it demands you turn left and right. Very annoying.

*UPDATE* Looks like configuration option for auto-zoom got re-set to the “not the right” setting — it has to be set “by speed” versus “by distance”. In the latter case, when you drive around without explicit destination set, it behaves as if the setting was off. Odd, but I can understand it.

One Response to “Waze community driving: still not quite there, though fun to use”

  1. krankyd

    Hi,
    we would be happy to help with some of the issues here – such as dynamic zoom options and how to edit new roads. If you’d like – shoot us an email to alpha@waze.com and we’ll take it from there.
    Thanks!

    Reply

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