Traffic navigation apps for iPhone and Android users could make traffic a lot less hairy for drivers across the country.
Several years ago, I was the proud owner of a Dash, a pioneering unit that offered real-time traffic updates compiled from drivers on the road. This massive appliance, which was six or eight times the size of a GPS, sat on your car's dashboard and was connected to the Internet. The Internet connection allowed Dash to compile live traffic info from other motorists on the road who had their units active.
In cities where Dash reached critical mass with drivers, you could travel on a secondary surface street and know what the traffic was like. But Dash was expensive to buy and had a high monthly service fee, which were both probably contributing factors to the company's demise.
Technology has taken what the pioneers at Dash did and made it much more robust.
An app I just discovered called Beat the Traffic is available as a freemium for both Android and iOS. This particular app finds where you are and pulls up a graphic representation of traffic conditions on freeways, secondary streets, and third level roads.
You can also store your most frequently driven routes and Beat the Traffic will shows what traffic is like to where you're going, all the while suggesting alternate routes.
Beat the Traffic uses traffic management systems for data as well as harvesting real-time traffic data from all the people running around allowing their locations to be tracked. (They don't track personally identifiable info about you. But we're all like rats in the maze providing info to other rates in the maze!)
Meanwhile, Android phones have built-in Google navigation. Google takes all people who are navigating via Google Maps for Mobile at that moment and shows the traffic flow in real time. It's like the son of Dash.
And there are a number of other free and cheap apps for iPhone and Android users. These include Waze.com and Inrix.com. Inrix acutually does predictive analysis on traffic. So it will show you what traffic will probably be like throughout your trip, based on road conditions, your speed of travel, and historical traffic patterns.