Latest Mapping Apps Tackle Issues Caused By Distracted Driving

Digital navigation systems were revolutionary when the program’s only task was displaying a map. Now the technology awaits in every smartphone as specialized apps help secure dinner reservations and lead the way in Morgan Freeman’s voice.

“GPS is changing what’s possible,” said William Rankin, an assistant professor at Yale University and author of After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the 20th Century.  “We can find new restaurants anywhere in the world, just by following directions on a screen.”

Navigation applications offer varying capabilities. Some apps are offline, meaning once they are downloaded an Internet connection isn't necessary for them to operate. These programs plot out a path to your destination and list turn-by-turn instructions.

Real-time updates that warn of a slowdown or suggest an alternative route are exclusively available with online programs.

Google-owned Waze employs a crowd-sharing technique to pool data and offer instantaneous traffic updates. Drivers benefit from data generated by other users while passively contributing their own by simply driving. Users can also report incidents and provide specifics, while a team of editors verify their accuracy.

Sean Peck of AppAvenger, a company that creates hyper-local navigation apps, offered some suggestions when comparing mapping apps.

  • Updates are important. See how often (and how recently) the software was updated. Programs that are constantly updated will be more reliable.
  • Read user reviews. They often have good feedback on using the app and any issues they may have encountered.
  • Offline capability. The road less traveled doesn’t always have Wi-Fi connectivity. Make sure your program can help you get around even when you can’t get a signal.
  • Look for storage potential. Some software allows you to create a catalogue of favorite locations so you don’t type the same place in time after time.
  • Consider potential added costs. Smartphones have GPS capabilities, but apps drains the battery and can quickly chew into your data plan.