Waze vs. Google Maps

Anyone who travels is familiar with navigation apps. And anyone who has traveled for a long time is probably very far away. But, if you typically find your way back, you are likely familiar with Waze or Google Maps.

And although you may be aware of both, most of us default to the familiar — supposedly, my uncle uses his familiar Magellan NAV 1000. But then again, I have not seen him for several years. I’m not even sure I have an uncle…

Personally, I like Waze. Waze features crowd-sourced alerts that provide real-time information about unexpected congestion, delays, detours, hazards on the road, and where police cars are (in case you need to ask an officer a question). Crowd-sourced information is amazing. Recently, while driving on the interstate Waze announced, “Exit next right.” Although I was 100 miles from my exit, I obeyed. And as I was exiting, I noticed red tail lights for miles and miles beyond the exit. The Waze users ahead of me kindly shared their location and speed (0 mph) for the benefit of those behind — and this all happens automatically — no button-pushing required.

Google Maps is owned by…Google. In fact, Waze is also owned by Google. In fact, Google owns everything. Waze was developed by an Israeli company in 2008 and purchased by Google in 2013. Not sure why Google continues to keep both apps…maybe the same reason Coca-Cola maintains 19 varieties of Coke. And although they are both owned by Google, they are meant to be used in different ways. Here’s what each does best:

Google Maps — supports several different modes of transportation. It doesn’t matter if you drive, walk, cycle, or use public transportation. It also integrates with ride-sharing platforms like Lyft and Uber. Google Maps will even suggest a better time to leave on your journey: “You should have left 27 minutes ago,” (thank you). And with something called location sharing, you can communicate your location to friends and family before you get there.

Waze — Waze is designed primarily for those who drive and relies heavily on user-reported data. “Wazers” alert each other to traffic and road hazards. Road closures, accidents, and other items pop up on the map as you’re driving along, helping you save time as well as avoid obstacles and hazards. All this happens in real-time based on information from other drivers. If a better route becomes available, you can trust Waze to let you know immediately.

Because Google Maps and Waze are different, you might find it best to keep both on your phone (or have multiple phones). That way you can use one or the other, depending on the nature of your trip. Plus, having more than one phone is not only handy, it also complicates your life exponentially.

Chet Skwarcan (traffic engineer, author, unique insights) with over 25 years of traffic engineering experience — online help available at TrafficEngineering.com/Services