The Electronic Traveler: Improving Mobile Mapping Technology
By far, the single most important app on my recent vacation was Google Maps. When you log more than 3,500 miles in a car, a map is often your best friend and the Google Maps app was outstanding at getting me from point A to point B.
But, like all apps, it could be improved. Along the way, there were additions that I could see proving most useful when on a road trip, whether it's 3,500 miles or 35 blocks. Here are some of the features I'd like to see in my map app.
Construction There were multiple instances of construction along my route, some of which slowed my trip due to traffic, but most of which simply slowed me down because of speed zones. Having to drive 55 (or thereabouts) for 50 miles can certainly change your plans when the normal speed limit is 70. Having some warning about road construction would be extremely helpful, if not for avoiding it, at least for factoring it into your trip. Since most interstate construction is planned well in advance, I would think this is something that could be added without a lot of extra effort.
Enlarging Names and Numbers Perhaps the most frustrating part of maps on a phone is how small they are. Even when they are zoomed in, the names of the streets and the highway numbers remain ridiculously small. Driving and trying to squint at interchange numbers is hazardous. There should be a way to zoom in on not only your location but also names and numbers. Multiple Maps Simultaneously Being able to store a comprehensive map while having other more detailed maps would come in extremely handy. Think tabs in a browser. One map for the big trip and smaller maps with greater detail for side trips or just finding your way on and off the interstate would be very helpful.
Option for Updated Time and Distance One of the more irritating problems on a long road trip is not knowing exactly how far you still have to go unless you edit the current route and update it with your current location. Why map apps don't provide an option for tracking your distance and time makes no sense to me.
Traffic I love using Waze for real-time traffic, but why not integrate that technology right into the map app? Even if rerouting isn't an option, at least you could see exactly what you were facing without having to switch from one app to another.
Weather On the last day of my drive, I encountered quite a bit of rain, but the only way I could see a forecast along my route was to pull up a weather app and look at the radar. Adding simple, real-time radar to a mapping application would be one of the best tools for planning ahead. Maybe it would change your route and maybe it wouldn't, but at least you'd know when a storm was in your path and plan accordingly.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.