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For Summer Road Trips, a Smartphone App That Avoids Traffic and Finds the Cheapest Gas

Last week, at the Webby Awards, which is like the Oscars for online ventures, an interesting travel app took home the "Best Connected" prize.

Here's what it can do: If you leave it running while you drive, it uses data from everyone else who also has it open and it determines the fastest route to your destination. So if there's an accident between you and your goal, when it finds out, it re-reroutes you around the traffic snarl.

It also points you toward the cheapest gas prices as reported by other users. It can also track your friends and family if they're using it, too, so you can find their whereabouts on a map, or they can know when you might arrive.

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The app is called Waze. It began in Israel in 2006 but it is finally coming of age, and for its ability to save you money on gas and make driving in unfamiliar places less painful, it's a worthy tool in the road tripper's toolbox. It works internationally.

For it to work, you do have to leave it running while you drive. That will keep you from texting and surfing behind the wheel, which is good, but it also exposes your device's whereabouts to the app's network (there is a mode that won't let you be seen by other users, but the app will still be tracking you), so if you don't like that privacy aspect, it's not for you. It might also be a good idea to have your phone plugged into the cigarette lighter as you go so you'll have some juice left when you finally reach your destination. And if you don't have an unlimited data plan, you will rack up usage fees. But for most drivers, these are not major issues.

Waze is free through www.waze.com. It makes its money by placing ads that correspond to where you go.

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Tags: Apps, waze, Road Trips, Driving

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