Dying career: traffic helicopter pilot

I still like listening to KGO Radio (AM 810 San Francisco) but on there they still make a big deal about having a traffic helicopter and a team that covers traffic. Every day they put on air someone caught in traffic too, mostly on the Bay Bridge, to report how long it takes him to drive from SF to Oakland, among other places.

This job skill is dying very quickly, according to the Associated Press. Why? Well, you only need to see Waze, a new crowd-sourced traffic app for mobile phones, to see just how lame this method of reporting the traffic is.

Here, let’s go for a ride around Palo Alto with Waze’s .

I’ve been using it and already I’ve found that the reports I’m getting are more complete than others (including the traffic reports in my 2010 Toyota Prius that I pay a lot of money every year to receive) and even include things like speed traps. Why? Because they are reported by other drivers on the ground. This system is even better than the Google Maps traffic on my Android phone (which is better than my iPhone).

This is a VERY disruptive company and one of my favorites to use. Get it now, it’ll save you a lot of time driving around. We’ll have to figure out something else for those traffic helicopter pilots and reporters to do, though.

Comments

  1. People shouldn't use their phone to get traffic reports while driving… very dangerous and illegal in several states. Radio is best. See also: http://lowtechtimes.com/2009/11/25/radio-vs-int

    I can see where a lot of data for these apps could be gathered through crowd-sourcing, but the best radio traffic reporters take calls from listeners plus communicate directly with the police departments and departments of transportation to gain info.

  2. Very helpful and very much needed – the iPhone Maps app that I rely on isn't helpful once I'm beyond a metro area and come across a problem area and need help figuring out other options + I like that a community of users will be helping play a critical role in developing its success – much more likely to stick than just another service replicating map info from the same source that the iPhone and a few other services use. Thanks for bringing us another intriguing new product

  3. Two answers to this:

    1. If you are really caught in traffic it don't matter. You can use your cell phone to find a new route.
    2. Most of the time I know my destination before I even get in the car, so here I key in my destination before I start driving and my Droid or iPhone talks to me, telling me how to get to my destination the fastest. Along the way I can see reports by glimpsing down.

    Plus, a lot of times I'm not alone in the car. Whenever we do interviews I'm usually driving with Rocky who does the navigation. When I'm going out on the town I'm usually out with other people, or my wife, so there's someone else there to look at the maps and let me know of traffic problems.

  4. Actually, I see DIYDrones.com as much more disruptive. Why put up an expensive, manpower intensive traditional helecopter or try to get everyone to install someone's app when you could throw up a dozen real time monitoring drones for the cost of the fuel for one flight or one advertisement?

  5. Should we really be advocating an app that promotes burning fuel? One commenter in the appstore mentioned that he drove around even when he didn't need to drive. Crowd sourced traffic data is cool stuff, but doing it in a way that is environmentally positive would be even better. Now if you take the helicopter out of the sky + all the commercial mapping vehicle (gmaps) off the road, it may be a wash on fuel use.

  6. I listen to AM radio because I like the other news, I don't listen for traffic anymore. Google Maps usually is better except for the rare instances when the traffic helicopter actually witnesses an accident.

  7. Thanks a lot, Robert, for your responses. We live in different parts of the country, but I'm generally impressed with radio reports in my area. For me, they have the advantage of being free. Waze is free as well, but it won't work for those of us without GPS enabled Smartphones. I just can't justify buying a smartphone (and paying the $$$$ monthly fees) at this time.

  8. There are several Waze eras. The first is base map crunching. This phase lasts probably 1-2 months for most urban centres. After that, the utility era of the app emerges for people who just want directions and since its based on actual information, should save fuel as slow spots are avoided (while Scobles' Prius switches off when stopped, 99% of vehicles don't). The third era is when Waze makes money ;)

    You can always extend the first era by driving into the Canadian wilderness.

  9. It's alwasy sad to see people losing their jobs, but as a fan of new technology that assists me in my daily life I think this is great. Very insightful article, thanks!

  10. TomTom has included such a feature in their TomTom HD Trafiic navigation system.
    It is a “high density” version of the normal Traffic info and it also uses mobile phone data
    But I think it is only available in the Netherlands..

  11. After that, the utility era of the app emerges for people who just want directions and since its based on actual information, should save fuel as slow spots are avoided (while Scobles' Prius switches off when stopped, 99% of vehicles don't).

  12. The first is base map crunching. This phase lasts probably 1-2 months for most urban centres. After that, the utility era of the app emerges for people who just want directions and since its based on actual information

  13. Wouldn’t this app distract the driver from driving and increase the number of traffic accidents just like texting?

  14. Wouldn’t this app distract the driver from driving and increase the number of traffic accidents just like texting?