Inrix is the first up in the test. Their traffic app is free, and focused on traffic. No turn by turn directions are offered. For an extra fee, you can tap on and see traffic cams that pop up on your app. You can also use a "projection" software that forecasts what the traffic volume might be like if you changed your trip's time. The creator hopes that users will contribute real time data to enrich the system.
but it doesn’t provide turn-by-turn directions or automatically reroute you in the event of a major tie-up ahead. This downside became painfully clear when I failed to notice a traffic alert and ended up stuck on Interstate 95 in Connecticut for an hour and 20 minutes waiting for an accident to be cleared. (Alerts are refreshed on the phone every three minutes.)
Waze is the second system mentioned. Also free, it relies on users to contribute information, a kind of crowded highway sourcing. You can see other users of Waze moving along ahead of you as icons, and gauge the congestion or openness of the road from that indication.
While sitting in the I-95 backup, I could see whether drivers ahead were picking up speed (indicating that the congestion was clearing) or getting off the highway in search of quicker routes.
While the directions Waze offered matched those of several stand-alone portable navigation devices I tested, it was slower to deliver spoken instructions (depending on your cellular connection speed and the model of your smartphone). I also found the traffic jam icons weren’t as precise as they could be; the same symbol may indicate complete gridlock or just moderate traffic. On the other hand, where Inrix Traffic merely noted that there was a camera at an intersection, Waze correctly noted that it was a dreaded red-light camera
TomTom has its pluses and minuses as well as a substantial cost. It has a warning an alternate route system, but the article found examples of positive (tipped an accident ahead and offered an alternate), a negative (failed to notice road construction), and a false positive (an uncongested street ahead was closed for a street fair).
There are still other traffic warning options available. TomTom offers a similar service it calls HD Traffic on its line of Go Live portable navigation devices, which have two-way wireless data connections and start around $180. After the first year, an annual $59.95 subscription is required.
In the United States, TomTom collects traffic information from some of the same local municipal sources as other providers, and then adds its own historical data along with live information from HD Traffic subscribers. Like the Waze and Inrix approach, it means that other users of the same service are contributing real-time information that can help you avoid congestion.
For drivers accustomed to the windshield-mounted navigation approach, TomTom’s HD Traffic integrates nicely with the traditional display of the device. It will, for example, present a visual and audible alert suggesting an alternate route if there’s a problem ahead. While such alerts also give the driver an estimate of the potential time saving, acting on them can still be a gamble, depending on how many other TomTom users are ahead of you, delivering accurate information.
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