WCCO-TV Road Tests Four Free Traffic Apps



MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It has been a long, frustrating winter of nightmare commutes for many drivers. Whether it’s snow, a crash or construction back-ups, some apps on the market promise to steer you around all the gridlock.

We follow their commands and often don’t question the roads they lead us down. Anything to make the drive to our final destination less stressful.


inRead invented by Teads
But we wondered which traffic app does the best job. With the help of Pioneer Press tech writer Julio Ojeda-Zapata, we focused on four free apps: Google Maps, Apple Maps, Inrix, and Waze.

We navigated to the same destination: Our WCCO-TV studios in downtown Minneapolis from about five miles away in Richfield, winding north around the noon hour on the years-long construction project on Interstate 35W.

Take a look at how long each app says it will take to get there: Eight minutes on Google, nine on Apple and Waze. Inrix registers a 13-minute drive. That’s five minutes and nearly three miles longer. You’ll see how those times turn out once we hit the road.

“If the route doesn’t seem right to you, if you’re not happy with it, fire up another app and see what it says,” Ojeda-Zapata said.

(credit: CBS)

He gives Google Maps the top spot in his research.

“It will fit the needs of most people in most situations,” he said.

Free of clutter, he likes the look of the app when you run into congestion. He also calls it the best for bicycle commuters.

“It does public transit and bicycle routing, which is great,” Ojeda-Zapata said.

He believes Apple Maps is best for those with that fancy watch.

“If you’re an iPhone user and you have an iPhone and you have an Apple Watch, the iPhone and the Apple Watch work together,” Ojeda-Zapata said.

Different vibrations signal to turn left or right.

“Waze is the traffic app on steroids,” he said. “It does a lot.”

A social network of sorts, Waze users are constantly reporting info from construction zones to road hazards like potholes. It even shows your speed on the road.

“If you’re really obsessed with what’s going on with traffic, Waze is fantastic,” Ojeda-Zapta said.

Inrix is the same technology you will find in the dashboard of luxury cars. In our repeated tests, it seemed to overestimate how long it would take to get there.

“Looks like Google and Apple were spot on from the beginning,” Collin said.

Those two timed out right.

Ojeda-Zapata told WCCO-TV he recognizes most iPhone users won’t download anything else on their phones, but he thinks Google Maps is especially worth the download and users will notice a difference.

Google Maps (iPhone and Android)

Best overall choice for most users (Apple and Google)
Good traffic-conditions color coding
Shows crashes, construction and closed routes
Shows recommended and alternate routes
Tells you when to leave, based on traffic conditions, so you get there on time
Google Assistant integration for verbal requests
Lyft and Uber integration
Also has excellent public-transit and bicycling-path routing
Apple Maps (iPhone)
Default choice for Apple users (already installed on iPhone and iPad)
Shows fastest route based on traffic conditions
Traffic-conditions color coding is hard to read
Shows crashes, road work, closed routes and general alerts
A must-use if you have an Apple Watch (which vibrates to guide you)
Also has public-transit routing
Uber integration
Waze (iPhone and Android)

Crowd-sourced traffic conditions. Get alerted about police, accidents, road hazards and traffic jams, all shared by other drivers in real time
“OK Waze” voice integration to report a traffic jam, road hazard, accident or speed trap without taking your hands off the wheel
Connect calendar and Facebook events to make sure you get to events on time
Advance drive planning to make sure you get there on time
Will also help you find a parking spot
Maps, gas-pump prices also crowd-sourced
Sleep mode to save battery capacity

INRIX Traffic (iPhone and Android)

Crowd-sourced traffic conditions (similar to Waze) and mapping (via OpenStreetMap)
Alerts about traffic slowdowns, police activity, accidents, events, construction, road closures and hazards on your route
Weather factored in. Get alerts about hazardous driving conditions due to snowstorms, etc.
Save your favorite places for real-time ETAs and alternate routes based on traffic. App also learns your habits and provides advice accordingly
Traffic forecasting. Pick your future drive time to see what conditions will be like
Will also help you find a parking spot
Same tech found in dashboards of BMW, Porsche, Audi, Tesla and Ford cars

Cool, a friend of mine is a

Cool, a friend of mine is a producer there - neat that they are somewhat forward looking and modern-ish


cant believe that it wasn't until May 2016, that I started using google maps. Talk about being left out. Oh, and I didn't start eFiling my Federal return until last year, TY 2017!! Hard to explain, sometimes we just aren't with it (I didn't know how to get past that I work in one state and live in another and Turbo Tax simply wanted a $0 for the state that I work in to let the eFile go).

It would be hard to imagine how many minutes of my life were saved with Google maps, potentially 30 every working day. It certainly is the #1 cellular data consumer on my phone, but it's not that bad. 400 to 700 mb per month?

Most people I know use Waze. It isn't that I don't like it, but I have this feeling it is using more data and there have been times I quit and my phone tells me there's a pothole. Not sure where the disconnect is, like Waze is running in the background.