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As the amount of traffic on our roads increases, so too does the amount of time we spend commuting.

Research suggests that workers in London, on average, spend forty two days per year commuting, while a typical American worker doesn’t fare much better – clocking in at an average of thirty eight days per year. Both those figures represent more days commuting that most people get in annual leave. It’s a worrying trend.

What if we could speed up or improve that commute by using technology? It turns out we can. There are numerous apps that try to make our daily trek to the office just a little bit more manageable. Here we look at some of the best.

Waze (Cross-platform, Free)

Waze is a community-based traffic, mapping, and navigation app. It styles itself as a fun way for drivers to join forces and outsmart traffic, save time, save fuel, and improve their daily commute. With 30 million users all around the world, the real-time information is updated regularly and is often highly accurate.

waze

We reviewed Waze for iOS Waze: A Social GPS For Your Daily Commute [iOS] Waze: A Social GPS For Your Daily Commute [iOS] Out of all the navigation apps that are currently on the market, Waze may very well have the best concept. The only catch is that it doesn't have a "big name" backing it (like Google... Read More a year ago and found that from all the navigation apps on the market, this one had the best concepts. The only criticism was that it didn’t have a ‘big-name backer’ – however, since the review was published the company has been acquired by Google in a $1.3 billion deal in June 2013.

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Waze has some features that really make it standout from its competition. These include the ability to join or create groups to share your commuting information, live ETAs for family and friends that display your location as you drive, information about the cheapest petrol station on your route, and the app’s ability to learn your frequent destinations and preferred routes.

Waze is available free for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

Bike Maps (iOS, $0.99)

Perhaps you’re one of the lucky few who are either motivated enough or have a safe enough route to cycle to work every day?

Bike Maps will provide you with a plethora of pertinent information about your route, including traffic density, water availability, road surfaces, and the feasibility of a new route.

bike-maps

Be aware, this is an iOS only app and predominantly only supports North American cities – though they do encourage users to contact them with recommendations for new cities to add to the service.

Automatic (iOS, $99)

Although there are apps that can teach road safety Don't Be A Fender Bender: 5 Driving Simulators That Teach Road Safety Don't Be A Fender Bender: 5 Driving Simulators That Teach Road Safety Online car simulator programs are for entertainment and education purposes only. After all, the arrow keys are hardly a steering wheel. They cannot teach you how to drive. But they can give you a feel... Read More , they won’t teach you how to improve your driving. Automatic is a smart driving assistant that uses a car’s on-board computer combined with a smartphone’s GPS to provide feedback to the driver. It can offer users information about rough braking, speeding, rapid acceleration and miles per gallon, as well as being able to remind you where you parked and send push notifications about your engine’s condition.

automatic

The app works by plugging the ‘Automatic Link’ into the car’s data port, and the developers claim that the system should work with just about every car since 1996. This then connects with the smartphone app to provide all the above feedback.

Interestingly, Automatic will provide you with a weekly score that is aimed at helping you improve your driving. Working hard to lower your score and improve your driving could potentially save you a considerable amount of money from your annual petrol bill – for frequent commuters the system may well be worth the $99.95 investment.

Currently the system only works in North America, but the developers indicate they are working hard to expand into other parts of the world.

Hopstop (Web & iOS, Free)

If you’re a public transport user, this is the app for you. We already looked desktop apps to help you use public transport efficiently Use Public Transport Efficiently Or Decide Where To Live By Estimating Travel Times With Mapnificent [Chrome] Use Public Transport Efficiently Or Decide Where To Live By Estimating Travel Times With Mapnificent [Chrome] If planning is too much of a bother, try out a Chrome app (which directs you to the main web application) like Mapnificent. Mapnificent shows you areas you can reach with public transport in your... Read More , but Hopstop is available on both iOS and Android. The app collates data from buses, trains, undergrounds, and trams to provide you with the most efficient way of undertaking your route on public transport.

hopstop

The app will provide data about time taken, cost, and distance, so you can be sure you are choosing the route best-suited to your requirements.

Hopstop’s free iPhone app is available in cities across Europe and North America, and you can also use the website from a standard browser.

iNextBus Realtime Bus Tracker (iOS & Android, Free)

Another public transport-based app, iNextBus Realtime Bus Tracker is also available for free on both Android and iOS.

inext-bus-tracker

Users of this app will never be left sitting in the rain whilst waiting for their bus to turn up. The app tracks buses on your device’s screen in real-time and it can use your current location to show all incoming buses to nearby stops along with an ETA.

It also allows users to bookmark stops and routes, meaning you can plan your journey before you leave the house and never ‘just miss’ your bus again.

Conclusion

Perhaps you’ve uncovered a commuting gem that you can share with the MakeUseOf community? Do you already use one of the above apps? Do they save you time and/or money? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credits: joiseyshowaa Via Flickr

  1. Steven Kopischke
    May 16, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Garmin may very well have been state-of-the-art in 2009 when my daughter turned 16 (I purchased Garmins and AAA memberships the day she started driving).

    However, by the time I got my iPhone in 2012, its day had already passed. Of the two Garmins I owned, both had been replaced by the factory for one problem or another.

  2. Steven Kopischke
    May 7, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I have been using Waze for more than 19 months now. I use it extensively when I travel for business - the maps and guidance are far better than my Garmin was. The traffic information is an outstanding feature. I always have it running so I can be alerted to traffic, accidents, construction, etc. Well-written (no, not perfect) application. I highly recommend it.

    • Daniel Price
      May 16, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      Incredible that you find it better than Garmin... How times have changed.

  3. Whisky
    May 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Waze can be fun, but it gives really bizarre directions more often than not.

    • Steven Kopischke
      May 7, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      Don't forget that Waze is taking your input (it defaults to "fastest route," but "shortest route" may leave you scratching your head). It is also responding to traffic issues down the road you may not be able to see. Whenever I have ignored Waze, it has always turned out to be more right than I.

      You can also report a map or routing problem within the app with a couple of taps. You might get a message asking for more information on the problem, but it's more likely that you will get a message indicating the problem has been fixed.

    • Daniel Price
      May 16, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Sounds like an all too familiar problem with a lot of map/GPS -based apps.

  4. dragonmouth
    May 6, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Waze is a self-defeating app. It may be help the users avoid congestion and traffic jams if there are only relatively few users but when Waze becomes more popular, it will just help to move the traffic congestion from one road to another.

    • Ken E.
      May 6, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Dragonmouth, I couldn't agree more. Waze is best utilized on city-to-city interstate commutes when you're looking to avoid major accidents, high traffic, and speed traps. Waze's value on local commutes is not all that valuable.

    • Steven Kopischke
      May 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      I disagree. When one is in heavy traffic, there are going to be far more non-Wazers on the road than those using Waze. Besides, Waze is constantly adjusting for traffic flow based on input from users. I have never had it steer me wrong when it has routed me around congestion. It may not always look like the faster route, but I have always been disappointed in my own wisdom when I choose to ignore Waze.

    • dragonmouth
      May 7, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      "I have never had it steer me wrong when it has routed me around congestion"
      It is not a question of Waze steering you wrong. It is a question of logistics. There is only a limited number of roads between Point A and Point B. When you and most of the drivers around you are using Waze, most of you will be shown the same alternate route. When you all follow that route, you will be taking the congestion with you.

      I commuted to work by car for close to 30 years. I used a Citizen's Band radio for traffic information (it was before smartphones and apps like Waze). When I started commuting, very few drivers had CBs and any alternate route was realtively traffic-free. As time went on, more and more drivers got CBs. By the time I retired and quit commuting, so many drivers used CBs to avoid traffic tie-ups that all alternate routes became jammed as soon as there was a slow down on the major road. The irony was that once all the CB users took the alternate route, the traffic on the main road started flowing much quicker.

    • Daniel Price
      May 16, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      Interesting point. Depends how engaged the users are and how fast they upload new info I guess. After all, once you're stuck in a queue you can't easily move onto a new route!

  5. Guy M
    May 6, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Oh my treacherous 45 minute commute to work! All those lakes and trees I have to look at. Bother! If only there was an app that showed where the next eagle, deer, porcupine, or raccoon was, so I wouldn't have to waste time admiring it's beauty.
    Sorry, I'm just so happy to not have the city commute anymore and get to enjoy the amazing countryside. I highly recommend it.

    • dragonmouth
      May 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      You have to watch out for the trees. They have a nasty habit of jumping out in front of vehicles.

      In your neck of the woods, you need an app to keep track of the deer and moose which can have quite an impact on your commute.

      "enjoy the amazing countryside. I highly recommend it."
      Becareful what you wish for. When I moved to my current house, it was in the "sticks." My commute was done on a beautiful 4 lane parkway, with traffic only being a problem within the last couple of miles of my workplace. Since then my community has joined the New York City suburbia. The parkway has been transformed into a 6 lane superhighway with rush hour, stop & go, bumper to bumper traffic. We still see deer but now they are laying on the side of the road with a damaged car parked next to them. Your countryside can become suburbia before you realize.

    • Guy M
      May 7, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      I've seen that happen elsewhere, of course. But where I'm at now has been settled since the 1700's and people are actually abandoning houses. We'll be good for at least the rest of my life, barring some sort of oil or gold rush.

      Deer are definitely an issue on the road. I'd like to have some sort of IR or heat-sensitive heads-up display to see them quicker.

    • Daniel Price
      May 16, 2014 at 5:48 pm

      Me too Guy - leaving the bright lights of Europe was the greatest decision of my life. 1 hr drive to work in Manchester in hellish traffic, 40 mins on a tram in Amsterdam. Now I'm a five minute walk from the Caribbean Sea and working from home - perfect. Who needs commuting apps eh?!

  6. Elad P
    May 6, 2014 at 8:15 am

    You should really include Moovit ( http://www.moovitapp.com ) in this list. I always use it when I use public transportation and it's amazingly accurate! It takes so many factors into consideration while determining your best possible routes, I honestly don't know how they do that :)

    • Aury
      May 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      I agree. Extremely helpful app.

    • Daniel Price
      May 16, 2014 at 5:46 pm

      It'll be in part 2 ;) - - thanks for the tip.

      Daniel

  7. David M
    May 6, 2014 at 1:00 am

    I've been using Waze for a little over 2 years, but it still hasn't caught on much in Bangor, ME. Maybe it's not really needed here. I was surprised when I went to NH over Easter when weekend that when I started the app, it would say there were over 6000 Wazers nearby. When I crossed the border back into Maine, it would start up saying there were 3000 Wazers nearby. When I got back to Bangor, it doesn't say anything, but I know there are a few Wazers nearby. You go to my wife's home town and I am the only Wazer for 50 miles or more. Oh well.

    • Daniel Price
      May 16, 2014 at 5:45 pm

      3000-6000 is a lot. There are nowhere near that number where I live.

  8. Swaminathan Venkatesh
    May 5, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    "but Hopstop is available on both iOS and Android."

    I checked their site and it says nothing about Android. No luck in the Play Store too.

    • Daniel Price
      May 16, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Hi Swaminathan.

      You're right, sorry. It got pulled from the Play Store late last year when it was bought by Apple. Apologies for the error.

      Daniel.

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