If you've only ever used Google Maps, you could do a lot worse, but there are some cool tools in other driving and navigation apps that are still worth checking out. Maybe it's PlugShare (Android, iOS) showing you every nearby charging station for your electric car, or Maps.me working without a data connection.
Today, the interesting item is crash and speed trap reporting, which Google Maps is testing for some users, according to Android Police. This is something that Waze (Android, iOS) has had for many years, and Google purchased Waze for about a billion dollars in 2013. So it makes sense to start seeing some imported features, though they've come much slower than we're used to seeing in the mobile app world.
For now, the Waze-like alert system is reportedly showing up in Google Maps (Android, iOS) for a limited number of users. We're using the beta version of Maps, and we don't see it yet, so it may be one of those things that Google can switch on and off without you having to download a new version of the app, commonly referred to as a "server-side" change.
If you've used Waze before, then you probably know how the reporting system works. If not: Most traffic notifications actually come from individual drivers who see something and tell the app, whose report is then broadcast to all users who are nearby and on that route.
People driving a route can report something with a few taps, but the much safer way is to enable the "OK Waze" voice command to verbally report a collision, road closure, road debris, or other potential complication. Note, however, that you can't use your phone's virtual assistant while "OK Waze" is enabled.
To enable voice commands in Waze (they're disabled by default), tap on the magnifying glass in the lower left, then the gear in the upper left, then "Voice & Sound," then "Talk to Waze," then tap the slider next to "Say OK Waze." The wording for these sections is slightly different on iOS than it is on Android.
From what we've seen, the reporting feature being tested in Google Maps is currently limited to touch input. There's a conversation bubble in the lower left, which you tap on to report a crash or speed trap. Adding a voice command for this function would presumably be the next step, assuming that Google decides to make this reporting feature a permanent addition.
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Waze's ability to report speed cameras and speed traps has been controversial among law enforcement, which may explain its slow adoption in Google Maps. The argument is that people may drive less safely if an app can tell them that no police or cameras are nearby, and it may worsen public safety in general if a dangerous individual can detect and track police movement on the roads around them.
So if this kind of reporting system makes it way into an app that's used as much as Google Maps -- which has about 1 billion monthly active users -- the company may be setting itself up for some difficult legal battles.
- A small number of Google Maps users are reporting that the app now has a feature to notify other users about nearby speed traps and traffic collisions.
- This feature was popularized in Waze, a competing navigation app that Google purchased in 2013.
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