Friday, February 23, 2018

Determining the best Navigation App

I drive a fair amount.  And usually I'm going to places I've been before.

Nevertheless, I usually have at least two navigation systems operating at the same time.

Subaru Nav System.  This is not my car or map.
We've got a Subaru Forester with navigation, and I have that pre-programmed with a number of destinations (Costco, The skating rink, fencing class, the farm in Indiana, my wife's cousins house)  Places I go once a week or fewer times, and places that are across town.  I also have preprogrammed places near other places, so if I get a little confused about where I am, I can navigate approximately.

The Subaru navigation isn't bad, and we added the traffic subscription feature, but some features are lacking.   The traffic feature doesn't seem very smart, especially about congested streets vs highways.  I'm usually on congested streets, and that's a bigger problem for me. And entering stuff into the Subaru navigation is a bear.  You can't do it on the fly, you have to do it by the dumb touchscreen, etc.  I have made errors entering information multiple times. The other thing is that the Nav system is outdated info.  So if something is closed or a bridge is out-- it doesn't know.

Even though I have the nav in the car, I will also use my phone to use WAZE, the crowd-sourced traffic app, and I usually use that to compare routes and see if something is particularly crowded.  Then I make my actual decisions based on the data I have in front of me.

Yes, data-driven driving.  Very 2019 of me!

I've been a WAZE user since the early get-go, and when we lived in New York, would swear by it.  It seemed whenever I tested it against Google or Apple Maps it was more accurate. And I like the weird gamification features (you get points for reporting obstacles, and you can change up the voice that leads you.)

 But that was a while ago, and now that my Apple Watch is always on me, I could just say "Siri, get directions to .... "  and it is pretty good about getting it.  That uses Apple Maps, which came with my phone. And I also need to have Google Maps on my phone because they have all of the public transit options.  (Which Waze and Apple Maps don't provide)

I have been wondering which app is the best, and lo and behold, the internet provided some fruit.

A guy named Arturrr has been doing a nearly year-long navigation test.  To read his full results, you should check out his blog:

He does a great and thorough job of explaining his methodology (he's in the SF bay area, he takes a lot of short trips, etc)

His findings: 
1) Apple Maps is conservative in its estimates, meaning you often arrive faster than it says you will.
2) Waze and Google Maps are overly optimistic about arrival time.
3) Google Maps had consistently shorter routes (timewise) than Waze or Apple Maps.

Of course, the maps/travel times for the Chicago area could be way different, and (as they say, and this time it's literal--Your Mileage May Vary)  Nevertheless, this has definitley made me think about giving Google Maps a second look.

How about you?  What Nav system/app do you use?  Please let me know (along with any nav horror stories) in the comments!


Kevin McKeever said...

Dedicated Waze user. I find it's the best interface of the three. Doesn't Google Maps use Waze? I thought it bought it.


Google did buy Waze, and I think does use their crowdsourced data, but Google Maps doesn't do all of the reporting stuff or the gamifying. There's no social community there.