Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

These Apps Get You to, through, Anywhere

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

These Apps Get You to, through, Anywhere

Article excerpt

"Really cool. Exactly what I needed. It changes everything."

Judging by his excitement, I thought photographer Tariq Zehawi had discovered a new restaurant, a new camera or a new car.

But no. The latest object of Tariq's affection was a free smart phone app called WAZE that helps drivers elude traffic jams, such as the tie-up on Route 80 that nearly snared him on a recent trip home from Pittsburgh.

"In minutes, I had a choice of three different ways to avoid the backup," he said. "It also spotted patrol-car locations."

Unlike global positioning units, WAZE invites users to digitally post alternate routes and other road information, which is forwarded to a network that's easily accessed.

Great! But don't driving apps such as WAZE contribute to driver distraction, the leading cause of road crashes?

In a 177-page set of proposed guidelines published last February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said navigation devices interfere "inherently with a driver's ability to safely control the vehicle." Although stopping short of recommending a manufacturing ban, NHTSA suggested disabling any dashboard operation that requires drivers to take eyes off the road for more than two seconds.

"That's why WAZE suggests that passengers access the system," said company spokesman Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski. "Of course, drivers sometimes ignore that suggestion, but some of our functions can be accessed by the wave of a hand."

The number of WAZE users now waving and digitizing in the New York region exceeds 700,000, with subscribers reporting that "city traffic is not nearly as bad as outside the city," Habdank- Kolaczkowski said. "The Garden State Parkway seems to be the worst - - just miserable."

Roughly 6 million people use the product nationally, a figure that the Israeli company expects will rise rapidly. Worldwide circulation already tops 23 million, which is another way of saying the cow is out of the barn.

Popular apps like WAZE seem to be here to stay. Even NHTSA agrees that rules for similar in-car Internet connections -- known as the "connected car" now available mostly in luxury models -- cannot be mandated because current evidence is "not sufficient" to estimate costs and benefits. …

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