Raise your hand if you printed out your driving directions on paper back in the day. Now put your hand down because your co-workers and friends are probably shaming you for being old. Today’s weary travelers will never have to deal with the coordination required to watch the road, while occasionally looking down at a sheet of paper on their passenger seat or dash.
The evolution of modern vehicular navigation was swift (who remembers Mapquest?): Printed directions were born in 1996 and came from printing an entire webpage from a website dedicated solely to the task of navigation. During this time, analog navigation device tech was growing exponentially behind the scenes. The Etak system made its debut in the mid-1980s, but largely went unnoticed. According to Wired.com:
“It read mapping data stored on a cassette drive, with each tape covering a section of a city. Navigating around Los Angeles required three to four tapes, and if you left the cassettes in the car on a particularly hot day you were out of luck getting to your next destination. Etak also relied on dead reckoning instead of GPS to find its way, and included a monochromatic screen that moved as the car drove along.”
Photo credit: Roger Ressmeyer / CORBIS
Etak opened the gates for technology companies such as Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan to perfect the concept in the early 2000s.
Then cars arrived on the dealership lot with navigation built into the dash, starting with luxury cars in the mid-2000s before arriving in other vehicles. Finally, every smartphone soon followed with the ability to have multiple navigation apps installed on the same device.
Now that we’re nearly into 2016, here are some of the best navigation apps out there today, in no particular order:
You have probably heard of this one, and Waze experienced seemingly overnight success. So much so that it was purchased by Google on June 11, 2013 for a reported $1.3 billion. Waze is one of the first apps that is fully interactive with other drivers on the road. Drivers are able to report accidents, road hazards, cops, and even the weather. Waze’s crowd-sourcing functionality is fantastic and innovative, but it relies solely on WiFi or cellular data, and its location accuracy isn’t as precise as other competitors.
The app is free for both Android and iPhone users.
This app scores major points for allowing its users to add up to five stops in a single navigation, but also for the ability of the user to search for points of interest along the way. inRoute provides details about gas stations, restaurants, and historical monuments as you drive, offering the driver and family the ability to pick and choose where to stop.
According to the New York Daily News,
“For an extra $4.99, inRoute users can add up to 25 stops on one trip, including the amount of time you plan to stop at each location, and a feature that reorders stops into the fastest and most efficient route. Take note, Google and Apple. (Available for free on the iTunes store with option for a $4.99 upgrade).”
Moovit hits the list for its own interactive qualities, allowing drivers to submit their own live travel updates, allowing its community of users to more accurately plot the time it will take to complete their journey. This gives Moovit the distinct advantage of more accurate Estimated Times of Arrival, and the reliability users crave.
Along the same vein as Moovit and booming in the UK, CityMapper offers more accurate times of arrival and overall journey charting, but has a few oddly satisfying bonus features. For example, you can plot your journey from Point A to Point B, and CityMapper will tell you not only how long it will take to get there by car, bus, train, or on foot, but also how long it would take you if you choose, say, a jet pack to complete your journey. This quirky style of layout and presentation is a conversation starter, perfect for kicking off your app into the mainstream.
Last but certainly not least, HERE is Nokia’s thorough navigation app, recently purchased by a consortium of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW for a whopping $3 billion.
HERE uses mapping vehicles the same way Google Maps does, but uses Cloud-based updates while offering the ability to download offline maps. HERE is free to download, easy to use, and is known to be accurate almost down to the foot. If autonomous cars really are our future, you just might find HERE in every one of them.