Even though I don't drive that often, I have the free INRIX traffic app installed on my iPhone and my iPad. Those few times I do find myself behind the wheel, I used INRIX to make sure my paved path is clear of highway and byway congestion and construction.
And as of today, I have a new, completely revamped and still free INRIX app (for iPhone and iPad with Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry versions to follow in the next few months) with several terrific features to make it easier for your to circumnavigate road hazards and get you where you need to go - and return - with a minimum of delay.
If you haven't heard of INRIX, there's good reason. The company's main business is providing traffic info to other apps and devices, including eight of the 12 top-grossing iPhone navigation apps, as well as:
- MotionX GPS Driver (99 cents, the top navigation app in North America)
- NAVIGON's MobileNavigator ($30-$60, the top grossing navigation app in the U.S. and Europe)
- Sprint Navigation ($3/day or $10/month)
- AT&T Navigator ($3/day or $10/month)
- ALK's CoPilot Live (free with multiple $5-$50 in-app add-ons)
- MapQuest 4 Mobile (free)
- Beat the Traffic (free, with $2-$20 in-app add-ons)
– and many other GPS-oriented businesses and services.
While many of these navigation apps include INRIX traffic information, none offer the full suite of INRIX options in today's new release.
Much of INRIX's information backbone is us - 100 million folks using connected vehicles and devices worldwide who report on and confirm road conditions.
In many ways, INRIX is designed for those of us who don't necessarily need a full-fledged, turn-by-turn, blow-by-blow navigation app (like me). If you know your way around, maybe you just need general route options and road condition info.
INRIX's basic functions remain - highlighting current traffic conditions in green (clear), orange (busy) and red (congested) on a map, with warning icons (traffic cones for construction, siren for police activity, asterisks for special conditions such as around a ballpark before or after a game, exclamation point in red triangle for accidents). You can turn any of these alert icons off in settings if you'd like, although I can't figure out why you would.
INRIX also analyzes the impact accidents, sporting events, concerts and other unique local events have on traffic and suggests the fastest routes with the least delay.
However, I found if you zoom in too closely you won't get any green, orange or red road condition highlights. It looks as if you have to pull out to see at least a few miles on the map before the app tells you what's happening on the roads.
But the new free INRIX offers more than the basic traffic info provided by the not-free INRIX-enabled navigation apps enumerated above:
- "Places" let's you designate particular locations to determine leaving-from/returning-to routes;
- Real-time police, construction, accident and event alerts up to three miles away, even in background mode when the app isn't running, that also close all by themselves;
- "Follow me" to track your whereabouts and alerts you to upcoming incidents up to three miles away along your route;
- One-tap accident/condition reports - just tap the exclamation point icon in the lower left corner to report a problem, which needs to be confirmed within 30 minutes to actually be posted;
- Traffic forecasting, which lets you see what traffic will be up to eight hours ahead in 15-minute intervals, based on seven years of historical traffic tracking, current traffic conditions, history of incidents, time of day and time of year, algorithmically calculated, and handy when trying to figure out the best time to head back to wherever you started from;
- Text or email arrival times to anyone in your address book - you indicate your primary contact (say, your wife or boss), and the app generates a text or email with your estimated arrival time with traffic condition notices as delay rationale. For example, here's an actual text I sent to my wife during an INRIX demo:
7:08 PM INRIX Arrival Time.
Traveling along Park Ave, :AX/Franklin Delano Roosevelt Dr N, Harlem River Dr N.
There are a bunch of other extras you can explore in settings. Feel free to explore what INRIX can do - remember, the app is free.
What you pay for
All of the above is free, but INRIX does have a premium version (one-time $25) likely to appeal only traveling salespeople and voyeurs.
In the free version, you can designate two Places; in the premium version you can designate an unlimited number of places, handy if you have regular client stops.
With the premium version you also get access to city and state department of transportation traffic cameras.
I guess these cameras are handy to see exactly what may be clogging things up at red-highlighted hotspots, but this is assuming there's a camera at the hotspot, that the camera is pointed at whatever is holding things up and that the camera is working. About half the time you'll get a "Camera Temporarily Unavailable" notice.
So, for most drivers, the free INRIX is all you need to make sure your driving route is clear and your drive pleasurable.