Iowa updates 511 travel app | Tech US News

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Traffic moves along Interstate 380 southbound Wednesday at the Interstate 80 interchange in Coralville. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Among the new features in Iowa’s updated 511 app is the ability to see “upcoming events” that could affect travel, such as road construction or accidents. (Iowa Department of Transportation)

The updated 511 travel app also allows drivers to receive hands-free, eyes-free audio announcements about upcoming traffic or construction issues. (Iowa Department of Transportation)

The Iowa Department of Transportation’s updated 511 travel app aims to make driving easier and safer during the construction and winter seasons.

The app, free for Apple and Android devices, was updated in early October with new features and a user-friendly interface. The new design matches the 511 website for a consistent user experience, said Sinclair Stolle, Iowa DOT traffic management systems engineer.

The features, Stolle said, can help drivers make “that informed decision to travel safer and more efficiently.”

“Know before you go,” Stolle said, which is the 511’s motto.

New features

Among the app’s new features is the ability to see “upcoming events” that could affect travel, such as construction and accidents.

The trip planning tool helps drivers map their route with travel times, road conditions and alternative routes. Users can save their routes.

Users can also turn on weather radar and weather station alerts, a feature that will come in handy for the winter, Stolle said. .

Drivers can see the progress of snowplows and road conditions to see if it’s safe to leave immediately or wait until conditions improve, Stolle said.

The app also provides views from traffic cameras on major routes.

“Check the roads before you go and look at the road conditions,” Stolle said. “A picture is worth a thousand words – check out the cameras we have.”

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Features carried over from the previous version include the ability to toggle layers that display information on the map on and off. Layers include unplanned traffic events, construction, rest areas and more.

Layers can be turned on and off for a customized view, Stolle said.

Users also have the ability to receive hands-free audio announcements of traffic events while driving.

The app will display a “cone of knowledge” and share information as the driver approaches a traffic event, Stolle said.

“Check (the app) before you hit the road or have a passenger do it,” Stolle said. “We don’t want to encourage you to use it while driving unless you put it on ‘tell’. Just me.”

Other states have their own 511 app through their DOTs, but Stolle said he’s not aware of any plans to make a national 511 app, which would be challenging, given that states have different roles in their apps.

“I don’t think there will be a nationally branded 511 app, but I do see DOTs providing standardized data to third parties for ingestion into their already existing national apps like Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps,” Stolle said.

There are efforts to standardize data coming from state DOTs through the US DOT Work Area Data Exchange, which will help with the integration of third-party data across the country. Stolle said the effort is focused on road construction, but could expand to unplanned events.

The travelers

Drivers who use the same route while commuting can sign into the app and save their route, Stolle said.

After opening a 511 account, users can access their saved routes, traffic cameras and other information on both the website and the app, Stolle said.

“Sometimes people find it’s easier to save routes on a bigger screen, so if you want to do it and you can save it, you can access it on your phone as well,” Stolle said.

It’s also possible to sign up for text or email alerts at a set time to get notifications of what’s happening along the route, Stolle added. Alerts can be customized to cover construction or unplanned events that the driver wants to know about.

Commercial drivers

Commercial drivers who previously used the Iowa 511 Trucker app can also use the updated 511 app. Features for commercial drivers have been added to the updated app and the Trucker app will be retired later this year.

Commercial drivers just need to tap “alternator truck” to see restrictions, truck parking information and weigh station locations.

To download the app, go to the Apple or Google Play stores. If you have already downloaded the previous Iowa 511 app, it will automatically update.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; [email protected]

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