By now, some of you know that I travel often. In fact, in the past few months, I have used all manner of transportation for my various assignments and missions including airplane, bus, ship and ferry. It may come as a shock that I have actually been using a car in the past several months for my current assignment. Having been used to rental cars for the most part, it has been somewhat of an adjustment to drive my own car.
Recently, one of my brothers introduced me to an app that has been invaluable with all of the driving, especially with the various addresses in several states. The app, Waze, is a GPS app which differs from the usual in that it is kept up to date via its own users. In the early days, when I bought my first GPS unit, I thought I was ultracool having such a gadget, but my initial glee turned to glum when the thing would take forever to come online and would lose “satellite reception” even on a clear day!
Waze has seldom lost its connection – it does occasionally, don’t get me wrong, but compared to previous models and apps, its accuracy has been much more promising. As routes are kept more up to date, the lane closure that GPS models would have never acknowledged, are noted by your fellow Wazers, and if need be, you are routed around the obstacle. Using Waze and reporting on incidents accrues points which move you up in the Waze family of avatars.
One feature that has been useful, albeit with occasional glitches, is the Send ETA button. When you have put in your destination, you have the option to send your ETA to someone at that destination. That way, they can track your route and are updated if there are any changes in the ETA along the way. I have used it many times, but have had problems with my designee being able to track my route the entire way, but they are usually notified of my arrival time.
A newer feature of Waze is the Planned Drive option. Need to be somewhere by a certain time and don’t know when to leave? Give Waze the information, and it will notify you when it is time to leave! It takes current and anticipated traffic into account and even adjusts on the fly if you need to go any earlier.
Of course a large part of what makes Waze so useful is the ongoing reporting by Wazers including traffic, police traps, cars stalled on the shoulder, etc. Waze has a simple screen for reporting these and even offers the ability to use voice commands to communicate these facts – keeping you hands free while directing you along your route.
Naturally not all drives go off without a hitch, but that is why many of us belong to AAA. I have been a member for almost thirty years and have found it useful on so many occasions that I have never questioned whether I get my money’s worth each year.
Now I have even more reason to celebrate being a AAA member – their mobile app. Not too long ago, I found myself stranded early in the morning en route to an assignment. I had downloaded the app and used it once when our car battery was dead, but that was broad daylight, and we had plenty of time.
This time was different. I clicked onto the app and pressed the roadside assistance button. It asked which type, and within seconds, a service ticket was issued with the number appearing on my phone. Within a matter of minutes, I was called and told when my service agent would arrive. When I looked at my phone, there was the route that he was taking with the estimated time of travel. It updated until he arrived. With that information, I was able to call my assignment and give them my arrival time. Since I had used the app, there was no need to give additional information or payment. I was soon on my way, arriving only a few minutes later than planned, thanks to this brilliant app!
Lastly, have you ever been in the situation where you landed in a town and did not have a reservation? Perhaps you have been driving all day and are ready to call it a night but you do not have a place to take care of that rest. Enter the app, Hotel tonight, which searches in your area for unsold hotel rooms, giving you a photo of the place and allowing you to book your room, solving your problem with ease. Unlike Waze and AAA which can work almost anywhere, Hotel Tonight only works in certain cities, although the list that it accommodates is growing (of note, it even offers this assistance in foreign countries, including Europe and South America).