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Finding Your Way in 2016

July 2016

There was a time  (not too long ago) that your grandparents unfolded a map in the car to find their way. Your parents probably had an early GPS in their car and used (gasp) MapQuest (yes, they’re still in business). Nowadays, most of us use Google Maps or Apple Maps to navigate. But even these apps have serious issues. Apple Maps has sent sales folk into mountains and off cliffs. Google Maps often suffers from downtime or GPS lags of up to 10 minutes—unacceptable as you drive past your location.

So far, this year has seen a flood of interesting new ways to navigate the world. Here’re some of our favorites:


featured image of what3words map, an app that is addressing the world.Our favorite new app here at E5 is What3Words. The premise is simple. The app divides the world up into 57 trillion 3 meter x
3 meter squares. Each one is given three words as a name. This makes the location exceedingly precise. For example, our location at Element5 is called, “”. While it seems odd, it’s actually brilliant as you can send someone precisely to areas on unmarked roads, forests, deserts, etc.

The country of Mongolia is adopting What3Words as its official postal system as of July 2016; helpful for them as they have trackless stretches with no roads covering an area triple the size of France. They aren’t the only ones using What3Words; the United Nations and some delivery companies are using it as well, according to BigThink.

Availability: Online version, Android, iOS
Cost: Free


featured image of plughshare map, an app that shows EV charging stationHave a Tesla, Leaf or Volt? Then you probably have PlugShare on your phone. It’s an interactive map of all the places you can plug your electric or hybrid vehicle in. It includes a trip planner, so you can drive cross-country, ensuring you’ll only take routes that hit charging stations. On the Tesla, the app is so well integrated you even know how much battery charge you will have before you reach each station.

Availability: Online version, Android, iOS
Cost: Free


If you like to drive fast like (ahem) this author, you will find Waze to be a must-have app. It shows you, live, several important data points that would slow your commute, such as road hazards, accidents, construction and speed traps. Yes, you can see where the police are hiding out to catch speeders in realtime.

Availability: Online version, Android, iOS
Cost: Free


The gasoline version of PlugShare, GasBuddy tells you where to find the cheapest gas. Prices are updated hourly. While PlugShare gives you very specific trip information for planning your route, GasBuddy is a little more primitive. It has a trip calculator that is supposed to do something similar.

I was unable to use it however as my car is a 2015, and the newest models it calculates for are 2014s. Sounds like it’s in serious need of an update. The site version is also fairly ad-heavy. On the plus side, it’s available on more platforms.

Availability: Online version, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry
Cost: Free


Honk is kind of a Swiss Army knife of an app. It helps you find parking meters, parking garages, and local cafés. It gives you walking instructions back to your car (step by step) and even lets you take and annotate a photo of your car. It will also show you how many minutes are left on your meter before you need to run frantically back only to realize you’re out of change. Oh, but did I mention it shows you the closest ATM as well? Pretty neat.

Availability: Android, iOS
Cost: USD 99¢


Similar to Honk, but with fewer bells and whistles, ParkMobile does one thing very well: lets you purchase and extend time on a parking meter without swiping your card or getting out change. It only works in cities that have the ParkMobile sticker on their meters (surprisingly a lot). You can scan the QR code (yuck) or stay in your warm, dry car and simply type in the meter number and location code and choose how long you want to stay.

It’s a great app for me as I often meet friends and clients at coffeehouses and hate interrupting a conversation with, “Excuse me, I have to feed the meter.” If my time is getting close (ParkMobile shows the time remaining and even texts you when you’re about to expire), I can simply extend the time. While the app is free, using the app does cost more than using change.

Availability: Online version, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Amazon
Cost: Free

What new navigation apps are you using? We’d love to know.

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