Traditional mapping apps like Apple Maps, Google Maps, or MapQuest can all warn you of heavy traffic on certain roads, but they don’t necessarily go much further than that. The reality is traffic can make or break someone’s day.
If you’re on a tight schedule, you need a decent app that can not only provide you with real-time traffic information for your preferred routes, but help you learn new routes should you wish to avoid traffic altogether. These four apps are capable of doing all that, and should be a staple for frequent travelers.
Inrix is a free crowd-sourced app for iOS and Android that gathers traffic data and alerts to make you more knowledgeable about which roads to aim for during your commute and which to avoid. It also has traffic cameras in an overwhelming number of areas so you can see for yourself just how crowded your nearby streets are.
One of the best features is Inrix lets you choose your own route to your destination, rather than having to use the route that map applications automatically suggest. If you have a preferred route for commuting, you can use waypoints on the map to set up and save exactly where you go and receive traffic alerts and an ETA daily for that route.
You can also save the times you plan to arrive to work, for example, and have Inrix notify you when you should probably get going.
Inrix notifies of incidents around you like an accident or construction work, complete with a description of the incident and an estimate of how long it could affect the area.
The crowd-sourcing ensures that Inrix is as accurate as can be. Plus, the traffic data is available in 32 countries worldwide. Inrix Traffic Premium is available for a one-time fee of $9.99 and includes an unlimited number of saved places and alerts, plus gas prices at local gas stations.
Beat the Traffic
Beat the Traffic is another option that provides a slightly nicer user interface than Inrix. The traffic you might face is spelled out a bit more clearly. It’s free for iOS and Android.
The downside is that Beat the Traffic is only available in the United States and Canada and may not be as accurate as Inrix since it’s not crowdsourced. More than a few reviews in the App Store have negative things to say about the accuracy.
More than anything, accuracy with these apps depend entirely on your area. Beat the Traffic is free, so it’s worth a download to test out the accuracy in your area if you like the design and features of the app.
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You can save your favorite routes and name them, view traffic cameras and incidents, and receive notifications about the traffic nearby. Routes are adjustable here as well so you can drive on the roads of your liking. For long rides, opt to avoid tolls if possible. Beat the Traffic even integrates weather reports so planning your commute through the rain (or around it) is a bit easier.
Waze takes an extremely unique approach to traffic management that might even make traffic fun. Traffic and fun don’t usually appear in the same sentence together, but Waze makes mapping and navigating social.
The app, free for iOS and Android, is completely crowdsourced and has millions of active users worldwide. On top of collecting hard traffic and incident data, Waze grants users the ability to report traffic and incidents when passing by them. Incidents that other Waze users report appear in little bubbles scattered throughout the map, or as an alert if you’re using GPS navigation with Waze and come across an incident in your route.
You can save your home and work addresses in Waze. Additionally, the app gets smarter on its own the more you drive and use your own routes. It’ll learn which way you go most often and eventually populate with traffic data along that route. Waze even suggests an alternative route while you’re driving if it notices another area is less congested.
Add friends, earn points driving and reporting incidents and leave messages for other Waze users on the road. It’s a charming, yet extremely effective approach to conquering the roads sans traffic.
ETA is a treat for enthusiasts of minimalism. As the name might suggest, the app’s sole purpose of existence is to let you know your estimated time of arrival for as many locations as you want to monitor.
Just add your current location, then all of your other locations you typically travel to. ETA lists the estimated time of arrival for all of them, plus provides multiple routes with their ETAs and of course the ability to start up turn-by-turn navigation and start the commute.
The app doesn’t include the fancy features that the other three on this list do, such as specific traffic alerts, incident reports or even the ability to save your own routes. It simply provides for a quick and easy way to learn about the traffic around you and prepare to leave accordingly so you arrive at your destination on time.
ETA costs $1.99 for iPhone.
Tip: For an added bonus, ETA comes with a great Notification Center widget. Tap the Today tab in Notification Center, then scroll down and tap Edit to find the ETA widget and enable it. It offers a quick look at the locations you frequently travel to and your arrival times right from Notification Center.