Navigation apps: Which one works best?

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Millions of miles, millions of drivers and millions of places to go.

We all need a little help now and then getting from here to there, but is the navigation app you’re using driving you where you to go?

Or just driving you crazy?

“If you’re a driver who drives around a lot, they’re probably indispensable,” says Rob Downs, CEO of Managed IT Solutions.

A navigation app is basically a computer program driven by algorithms.

 For example, Google Maps collects information like:

  • User input on traffic conditions
  • GPS data on how fast vehicles are moving
  • Pinging delays between your phone and cell towers
  • Information from local transportation departments on road closures and detours.

The app then uses all that information to give you your best route.

“It’s an algorithm looking for the best solution,” says Downs. “However it’s computer-based so it’s not always going to be perfect.”

So how are you to figure out which one works the best?

CBS 17 used three crews in three cars using three different apps.

CBS 17 traffic anchor Laura White used Apple Maps.

Evening Anchor Marius Peyton used WAZE and consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia tested Google Maps.

Our trip: From our station at 1205 Front Street to Falls Point Shopping Mall in North Raleigh.

It was a 7.5-mile trip.

Waze started Payton out on Interstate-440 and later Interstate-540.

Smith was routed to Atlantic Avenue to Litchford Road – a route with less congestion but lots of traffic lights.

Sbraccia got the most congested route up Falls Of Neuse Road.

Google bought Waze in 2013 but, the two apps aren’t identical.

“Mainly it’s the interface and the data they serve up,” said Downs.

Despite Sbraccia’s more congested route, he arrived before his colleagues.

Smith was a minute behind and two minutes late, Payton pulled up.

“My route took me around all the traffic,” said Payton. “It was a nice, relaxing drive.”

Apple Maps lack of communication with the driver frustrated Smith.

“Apple makes it a little confusing because it doesn’t talk to you as much,” she said.

Payton, too, had some frustrations with Waze.

“It says get off at such and such as exit but doesn’t tell you if it’s left or right,” he said.

Sbraccia found Google Maps kept trying to suggest alternate routes when there was no need for them.

“It kept saying there’s a similar ETA if we want to take it,” Sbraccia said.

All the apps are evolving.

Google has added speed limit icons and is implementing police activity alerts – two features Waze already has.

Apple, too, is trying to make its app more robust.

“They have vans across the U.S. in 24 states or so, doing information gathering and with photos and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). It’s a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges,” Downs said.

Navigation apps are here to stay and for drivers. It pretty much boils down to personal preference.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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