Dr. Traffic

Waze mobile app will include CDOT traffic data

Navigation apps help drivers avoid traffic jams.
Navigation apps help drivers avoid traffic jams. TNS

Danny Pleasant rates himself at 7.5-8 on a scale of 10 when it comes to his comfort level with technology.

So he understood the possible benefits right away when a tech partnership came along for Charlotte Department of Transportation, where he is director, and the company that makes Waze, a free navigation app for mobile devices.

Through the Waze Connected Citizens Program, CDOT could give drivers more real-time information about road conditions.

The second goal is to give governments information that can help them clear up problems faster. When a Waze user reports a wreck, the city can get its wheels turning.

“We had an opportunity to provide better serve our citizens,” Pleasant said.

The city signed on. Other partners include Raleigh, Atlanta, Miami Beach and Tampa.

In Charlotte, Waze will include data from CDOT on closed roads, blocked lanes, detours and other conditions.

And, by the way, you can also use the app to find cheap gas prices near you. And there are features for connecting with other Waze users socially.

“It just gives anyone who has a Waze navigation app a little bit of an advantage,” he said. “It’s another tool.”

Coincidentally, Pleasant has been using the app for about two years. He has a distinctive rank that allows him to update the system if he finds streets that are mapped incorrectly or when he sees other inconsistencies.

(Well, who wouldn’t want the city’s lead transportation exec weighing in on roads and local traffic. As an FYI: he also like the RoadScout tracking app.)

While the data-intensive app does tend to drain his phone’s battery quickly, Pleasant said he has paid a price for questioning the app’s route choices on road trips.

“Sometimes it gives me a reroute and I say it doesn’t make any sense,” he admits. “Then I run into a big traffic mess. I’m learning to count on it and listen to what it has to say.”

Mobile apps are one of many tech tools the city relies on to keep traffic moving. Charlotte was first in the state to use fiber optics to coordinate operation of its traffic signals. The network includes about 750 intersections, some of them with cameras.

More recently, cellphones allow a third-party vendor to collect traffic data as we drive. The city can use that information for traffic counts and forecasting. Data on traffic speeds can show areas where delays are common.

Looking forward, Pleasant thinks technology for self-driving cars is worth watching. He’s not making any specific predictions, though.

“You can anticipate as much as you want how much technology will change things,” he said, “but technology will go in a completely different direction than you might imagine.”

Karen Sullivan: kmsulliv@charlotteobserver.com, @Sullivan_kms

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