Traffic-Busting Tech: 5 Top Tools for Saving Gas, Beating Traffic

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Hoping to spend time with family and friends this If you plan on getting there by car, good luck avoiding the gridlock.

With about 30.9 million Americans planning to drive to their destination this weekend (according to the American Automobile Association), drivers across the country are going to find themselves snarled in traffic.

But if you want to up your chances of enjoying a smooth ride, saddle up your smartphone.

Brad Spirrison, editor of Appolicious, an application review site, said developers for Apple and Android mobile devices have created a wealth of travel applications that can help you save time, trouble and gas money.

"I don't think that these apps in quality replace some of the heaviest-lifting GPS devices people use," Spirrison said. "But if you don't want to invest in [those] ... they're highly functional and they continue to get better and better."

Take a look at 5 top apps below.


Why not let your fellow road warriors help you find the fastest route?

With a network of 3 million active users worldwide (and nearly one million in the U.S.), the smartphone application Waze aggregates real-time road reports from nearby drivers to help reduce driving time and save gas.

You just fire up the free application before you hit the road and type in your destination. Waze provides turn-by-turn directions that let you bypass traffic jams detected by the network.

It works by anonymously monitoring the location and speed of drivers who have the application running on their phones. Once a driver opens the application, it passively contributes her traffic data to the network to advise others in real time.

But drivers who want to take a more active role can earn points by giving a heads up about speed traps, broken traffic lights, accidents and other hazards.

To add a bit of fun, Waze also offers "road goodies," which are geo-specific challenges that award drivers points and other prizes for reporting traffic and map information. Competitive members can track their progress (and earn bragging rights) on a leaderboard of top "Wazers."

The app also integrates with other social media sites, so users can see tweets about relevant travel information, check-in on Foursquare and share their journey on Facebook.


Another app that relies on the wisdom of the crowds, GasBuddy aggregates user-generated data to direct people to the cheapest gas in their area.

A favorite of the Appolicious community, Spirrison said the free app makes it easy for drivers to look up nearby gas stations and compare prices.

Those who just want the information, can open the application for a map of the gas stations near their city or zip code. Drivers willing to go an extra step can report the prices in their area to win points and potentially giveaways (like $250 gas gift cards).


If you're willing to spend $49, TomTom U.S.A. brings the Dutch GPS manufacturer's high-octane navigation system to the iPhone.

Once you enter your destination, the app generates turn-by-turn directions and calculates travel time by pulling in speed data from other users (even factoring in rush-hour, traffic lights and shopping crowds).

Those who want a familiar voice telling them where to go can pay an additional $5 and get Homer Simpson as a guide.

If you really want to go all out for the best in traffic-busting technology, TomTom's newest connected GPS devices (which cost from $140-$350) use anonymous speed data from other TomTom customers to give drivers the fastest route in real-time. As the network receives traffic information from other connected customers, the Traffic HD system constantly recalculates routes to give everyone the clearest path.

Driver Feedback

This app won't save you time or money but, if you're a parent, it just might save you a headache.

Released by State Farm Insurance last month, the Driver Feedback app for iPhones and iPod Touches uses the devices' built-in accelerometer to monitor and score a driver's performance.

Eli Winn, a State Farm manager, said the free app, which is part of the company's safe driving campaign, measures the "ABC's of driving" -- accelerating, breaking and cornering.

"It's a teaching tool for you to be able to improve," she said, adding that teen drivers could launch the application when they're behind the wheel and then share the evaluation with their parents.

While the app lets drivers record each driving session (so that they can measure progress and spot areas that need improvement), Winn said the app does not send driving information back to the company.

Sit or Squat

On long car trips, it's the inevitable cry from the back seat: "Are we there yet? I gotta go..."

Thanks to the free app Sit or Squat, antsy children (and the adults who love them) will be able to find the closest restroom no matter where they are.

"It's like the famous George Constanza iToilet," Spirrison said, referring to the fictional restroom finder application hatched by the well-known Seinfeld character.

The application not only points you to the closet bathroom, it offers pictures and reviews. It also shares information about extra features, such as which have changing tables or are handicap accessible.

Sit or Squat may not get you to your destination any faster, but it could certainly make the ride more enjoyable.