A Slovakia-based mapping application has just rolled out a feature that Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze and every other navigation app should have – an alert for when drivers are heading in the wrong direction.
By using GPS data, the app, called Sygic GPS Navigation & Maps, can determine when a driver is on the wrong carriageway and heading towards oncoming traffic. It issues a visual and audible alert to the driver, as you’d expect, but then also warns every nearby Sygic user.
Driving on the wrong side of a motorway or highway is thankfully rare, but when it does happen the result can be catastrophic. We like how Sygic is looking to address this, especially when it comes to using the app’s crowdsourcing system to warn other drivers. That way, users can slow down, look out and potentially pull over to avoid the driver who is on the wrong side of the road.
It’s the sort of feature we reckon Waze could implement, as that app already provides routing based on reports of road closures and incidents reported live by its users.
There are of course a couple of limiting factors here. While Sygic claims to be the world’s most popular offline navigation app, ‘offline’ of course means it isn’t comparing the scale of its user base to online mapping from Google, Apple and Waze. While the system can warn the driver about their heading in the wrong direction (assuming the GPS signal is accurate enough, of course), it can only warn nearby drivers who are also using Sygic at that moment.
If this feature were to appear on Google Maps, then it’s much more likely that a meaningful number of nearby drivers would be warned of someone heading towards them. We can imagine a system whereby the app uses GPS data to work out what's going on, but also give drivers an icon to tap if they’ve encountered someone driving the wrong way, which could then alert others.
A universal system could be the answer here, where an alert about a wrong-way driver could be distributed across all mapping apps, at the same time. However, given the occasional vagueness of GPS signals, which sometimes struggle to work out which road a car is on if several carriageways cross over each other, we wonder if such an alert could ever truly be reliable.