Friday, March 16, 2012

Waze should partner up with the Hampton Jitney

I was first introduced to Waze on a business trip to the West Coast by an Israeli co-worker who swore by it. In general I'm not a fan of using my iPhone as an in-car GPS because multi-use usually equates to mutually exclusive use. You also usually need to get some device to hold the iPhone to prevent you from crashing your car and let's face it- most iPhone apps are buggy. If I'm driving I tend to like the reliability my Garmin nĂ¼vi 3790LMT  provides - it never crashes or starts ringing with a phone call; although my Garmin once did connect via Bluetooth to someone else's cell phone in a nearby car along the highway.

But my constant desire to optimize my driving allowed me to overcome this multi-use phobia.
For instance, I hate sitting in traffic especially due to imperfect information, so I found a holder for my iPhone on Amazon, Amzer Swiveling Air Vent Mount for iPhone 4.  I decided to run a parallel test; I'd drive around with both my Garmin and Waze giving their optimal routes using their traffic data.  Notwithstanding the annoyance of having two sets of directions blaring out, I can report the following results.

In a couple of instances Waze beat out the Garmin by reporting major accidents much sooner than the Garmin.  A few times the Garmin knew a better route than the Waze, but over time Waze's traffic data improved significantly but it's still not perfect.

My current challenge is how to get better traffic data along the roads to the fabled Hamptons, where My Big Redneck Vacation was filmed. My wife and I drive out on a regular basis and the summer traffic can be excruciating. My Garmin with traffic data unfortunately doesn't have coverage for Route 27.  While it would be great to watch Waze users grow organically, why not accelerate it and improve the real time traffic data?

The Hampton Jitney is one of three mass transit options from the city out east. Their schedule during most of the day is one bus per hour in each direction- sometimes more frequently. They would be a perfect partner to submit traffic data to Waze. On trips I'll hear the Jitney driver calling in to headquarters or other drivers trying to figure out traffic conditions. The buses have free wifi and I'd bet that the drivers have smart phones. Either way you could equip each bus attendant or driver with a Waze-supported device and have all those buses feed the network.

A Waze-Hampton Jitney partnership could give the bus icons a custom logo, just like they do for advertisers. Jitney would get some free promotion and they would also benefit with data for themselves and those who are driving from Montauk to Manhattan. Or why not strike a deal with Greyhound and other bus companies to feed data in all over the US?

In contrast, on my last visit to Israel I used Waze as my GPS and it was amazing to see the market penetration. Normally you drive down a road in  the New York metro area and you'll see an occasional Wazer driver; in Tel Aviv the entire road was covered with Wazers. All of them were feeding in that always important traffic and speed trap data to the Waze community.