It’s been a while since I’ve driven to work. Still, I’ve heard the traffic reports countless times, all ended with the sign-off line “AA Roadwatch”. The AA, which gathers its name from a former connection to the British Automobile Association, started to broadcast traffic reports across the airwaves 32 years ago. That’s nearly as long as I’ve been on the planet! Owing to a raft of technology now sitting in the hands of the public, the AA is ceasing their radio reports. But what are the alternatives to AA’s traffic reports?
When I first heard the AA was ceasing their reports, my first thought was “what will we do now” followed really quickly by, “oh yeah, Google”.
Despite my recent flip over to loving my iPhone 12, I’m still a massive fan of Google Maps. It’s easily the best mapping system for planning a journey and getting from A to B the fastest. When setting off on a road trip, I shovel my trust into Google Maps. I let the app completely determind the best way to travel.
The reason behind that is simple. Google uses unimaginable amounts of anonymised user data to tell how busy routes are. When you’re in the Maps app, the big red lines are places to avoid. If you’ve used the app’s route planner, you don’t even have to worry about that because Google has already factored that crash on the M50 into your route and sent you the faster way. The bad news is that the M50 might still be the fastest route and there’s a lot of sitting in traffic in your future.
I spent a few minutes thinking about the fact the AA has had such a massive reduction in the public depending on them because of technology like Google Maps. We’ve transitioned from waiting for the information on the hour, to having tailored information to our peronal needs on-demand. And Google does that fantastically well.
Take this example. You’re going to a hurling match in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork. You need to be there for 3PM and are travelling from Dublin. You can pop the stadium into Google Maps, setup a navigation and even tell the app what time you want to arrive at. Google Maps will then tell you the time you need to leave by to arrive on time and even send you a reminder when it’s time to get going. When you’re nearly there, Maps can help you find parking too. It’s brilliant really and all based on your very specific needs.
Beyond Google Maps, there are plenty of other map platforms, including Apple Maps. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure why people would use anything but Google’s app for pure efficient route planning. But Waze is another app that offers something slightly different. Like Google Maps, Waze will let you plan and organise everything about your trip, including being able to set an “arrive by” time.
The big difference with Waze is that the app crowd sources information. For a long time, that was just ok in Ireland. Not many people got on board and the app was much more useful in countries with larger populations, namely the US. But today, there are loads more people here using the app.
In this example, someone driving along the N7 has spotted a car pulled in on the hard shoulder. This means that other Waze users will receive a notification when they’re approaching the obstruction.
The drawback is that you are depending on other users to have spotted something and that they have taken the steps to report it. Once there’s enough people using Waze is really is a fantastic app, keeping you posted on everything from speed vans to traffic incidents and even petrol prices.
There are some nice additional features within Waze that make it a lovely travel companion. You can connect your favorite music app and even use voice controls so you can keep your eyes on the road.
Once you start to use apps like Google Maps and Waze, you can see why the AA has decided to step away from traffic reports. We now have user-friendly access to tailored and, perhaps even more importantly, live route planning.