Beating the traffic woes: Trapster vs. Waze

I drive a lot. Since mid-2009 I’ve put 45,000 on my 2010 Prius. Almost every mile of that has been with my trusty iPhone, usually on a holder on the dashboard or in one of my drink holders.

Lately I’ve been testing out two apps (Waze and Trapster) to help make driving more fun, and I invited execs from both companies to my house to go on a drive and learn about the philosophies behind both companies.

Trapster started out stronger, with its “share where the cops are” approach. It quickly got to 14 million downloads, although I doubt many of them are active anymore, based on my experiences driving around San Francisco.

Waze didn’t focus on just cops, but on the overall driving experience. You could report road closures, or obstacles in the road (I reported a ladder in the middle of the freeway once) to other drivers.

Since Waze started in Israel, and because Google had better maps and driving directions in the United States, its growth had been slower, which meant its utility wasn’t nearly as good.

But that was a year ago. Today Waze is blazing a new path with a very nice and newly-designed app. Every day, at least in San Francisco, I see more and more drivers using it, which means traffic reports are getting more and more accurate and more and more granular. Now it’s not uncommon for me to be right behind another Waze user, even on mountain roads. Unlike on Trapster, where you have to guess where drivers are, you can see exactly where they are on Waze (don’t worry, you can be totally anonymous, although I always am totally public so you’ll see me driving around).

On Trapster, drivers leave “blue lines” where they’ve been (they last a couple of hours) so you can at least tell where drivers have been. Tonight we drive home at 11 p.m. from Milpitas and I was using both services. On Waze I saw lots of other drivers, but on Trapster I saw no blue lines. The crowd has moved, it seems, and that makes Waze more useful.

Trapster does have one new feature that’s very cool. Trapster was recently sold to Navtek, the mapping folks, and they’ve mapped the speed limits on many of the region’s roads. So, as you’re driving along you’ll know the speed limit. Handy, because in many areas the speed limit signs are infrequent (it warns you if you are exceeding the limits, too, which is nice).

If you watch the video I did with Trapster, you’ll see that the company has started moving away from just being about spotting cops and traffic cameras, and is now also about sharing traffic info, like blocked lanes, and such. But here Waze is innovating faster (Trapster really hasn’t added many new features lately, while Waze has gotten a total overhaul) and has more users, so that’s the one I find myself reaching for the most.

What about you? Are you using any traffic apps on your phone? If so, which one?

Here’s videos of both teams:

Trapster:

Waze:

Comments

  1. This would be so cool with Siri integration – imagine near frictionless updating of traffic conditions!

  2. My experiences with both apps pretty much agrees with yours. Unlike Trapster, however, Waze also positions itself as a GPS, and its early versions were dangerously awful with directions. It seems to have improved here as well. Trapster overloaded itself with features, which ultimately made it harder to use while driving. Traffic reports came on a separate map “in a drawer” and the whole program was so resource hungry, the battery drained even when you had the thing plugged in. I’m much happier with Waze today. It’s not perfect, but it is more fun to use. 

  3. I favor trapster, which seems much more active in my neck of the woods.  Don’t hate me, but I haven’t faced the commute much… Haven’t driven myself to work in 10 years actually.

  4. Though you can’t exactly top Google Maps Navigation, I’ve been rooting for Waze since I first used, and was dazzled by it, on WinMo. Fired it up yesterday on my Nexus to see what’s doing and compare it to what Google was telling me. Agreed that they’re doing a good job sort of phasing out Trapster. 

    The WinPho community by the way sure wants a port, and given that they’ve got basically nothing, and that Waze has matured a little bit, it might be worth Waze’s while to crank one out for them. How big a schlep would that be, given that they’ve done it for a handful of other platforms?

  5. Fascinating.

    On an aside, I notice that at least one of the back-seat passengers was wearing a seatbelt…

  6. I use Waze and I like it. However, it is hard to compare since this is the only application around here, in Israel.

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  8. I used to use both. But as Trapster was rarely used here in Holland and so I gravitated to Waze. Waze was recommended to me by the great Israeli blogger @HilzFuld. What most inspired me was that the entire map was generated by the GPS data of the users themselves; no Tom Tom, no NavTeq, no Garmin. Starting back in 2009, Holland was a clean slate and was amazing to be involved in the community; cleaning up map data, naming streets and adding metadata such as postal codes and house numbers. Back then the accompanying website and map editor were buggy as hell but the community aspect was so strong it kept drawing me back.
    Now whenever I get into my car I immediately launch Waze. Every single nook and cranny of the Dutch road system seems to be covered. It helps me avoid traffic jams, mobile speeding traps and slowdowns (cars parked on highway shoulders). It’s also fun to chat with random Wazers when I get caught in the inevitable full stop on the Randstad’s choked highways. 
    Now that I think of it, I think it’s time to remove another iPhone app I no longer use. 
    I’m removing Trapster now, long live Waze!

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  10. I used to
    use both.
    But as Trapster
    was rarely
    used
    here in
    Holland
    and
    s
    o I gravitated
    to Waze.
    Waze
    was
    r
    ecommended
    to me
    by the great Israeli blogger @HilzFuld.
    What most inspired
    me was
    that the entire
    map was
    generated by the
    GPS data of
    the users
    themselves; no
    Tom Tom, no
    NavTeq, no Garmin.
    Starting back in 2009, Holland
    was a clean
    slate and was amazing to
    be involved in the
    community;
    cleaning up
    map data, naming
    streets and adding
    metadata such as
    postal codes and house
    numbers. Back
    then the
    accompanying website
    and map
    editor were
    buggy as
    hell but the
    community aspect was so
    strong it
    kept drawing me back.
    Now whenever I get into
    my car I
    immediately launch
    Waze. Every
    single nook
    and cranny
    of the
    Dutch road
    system seems to
    be covered. It
    helps me
    avoid traffic
    jams, mobile
    speeding traps and
    slowdowns (cars
    parked on
    highway shoulders). It’s
    also fun to
    chat with
    random Wazers
    when I get
    caught in the
    inevitable full stop on the Randstad’s
    choked highways. 
    Now that I think of it, I
    think it’s time to
    remove another
    iPhone app I no
    longer use. 
    I’m removing Trapster
    now, long
    live Waze!