In-Car Navigation Needs an ‘Avoid Traffic’ Feature

Some people would gladly add five to 10 minutes to a trip to avoid sitting in traffic.

byJustin Hughes|
Car Tech photo

Many navigation apps these days will display traffic conditions along your route. Some, like Waze, will even reroute you around major traffic jams. But this rerouting is far from perfect. More often Waze will send me barreling straight into standstill highway traffic, then tell me "Estimated time in traffic: 18 minutes," usually just after I pass my last opportunity to exit. In reality, when I put my mind to it, I can find a better back road route myself than any route Waze suggests using main roads.

Though I use Waze as an example, the same is true of Google Maps, Inrix, and every other navigation app I've tried. It may be true that I might get where I'm going five minutes earlier by sticking to main roads and putting up with traffic. But I'd gladly add five to 10 minutes to my trip if it means not crawling along at speeds lower than I can maintain in first gear and give my clutch leg a nasty cramp. Even if I'm only moving 30 mph on back roads, at least I'm moving, and not completely surrounded by impatient drivers who won't hesitate to nearly crash into me to gain a precious car length in traffic.

Waze and other navigation apps already have selectable options to avoid highways, toll roads, ferries, etc. I'd like to see an option to avoid traffic. This would tell the app that if it sees traffic along the intended route, look elsewhere for a free-flowing route, even if it adds time to the trip. In my experience, the apps don't account for time lost in traffic delays well enough, which means that when I go my own way I sometimes get where I'm going earlier than the app thought possible on main roads.

Granted, I don't completely discount what the app has to say. I leave my destination programmed in, and Waze has found some good back roads for me to use—once I veered far enough off my original course for the back roads to become the fastest route for the rest of the trip. It's just a simple matter of programming to give apps the ability to do this automatically with the proper options selected. My clutch and left leg will thank you for it.