Mobile app Trapster just rolled out its 4.0 release and added new features to help users log roadtrips, locate friends, better avoid tickets, and get around rockslides. Even the police are pitching in to aid (and slow) your commute.
Trapster started out as a simple way to track where police speed traps so that users could avoid getting ticketed. With the addition of a mobile app for the three most popular smartphones on the market — iPhone, Blackberry, and Android — as well as added text-messaging capability, it allowed people to use their phones as radar detectors, alerting you if you approach a reported speed trap and letting you report new ones.
The app has since blossomed into a customizable, data-rich resource. Most of this is because it's free and has a huge base of users.
"This can only work as a massively deployed free app," said Trapster creator Pete Tennereillo. "We've grown from less than half a million users to approximately 3.2 million. Two-thirds [of those people] are on iPhones; 600,000 are on Blackberries; and a couple hundred thousand are on Android. The rest [are split] between various other platforms and text messaging."
Below, some of our favorite features found in the newest release.
Driving a Uhaul truck and a Honda from Texas to Illinois, with just two vehicles, it's amazing how many times we nearly lost each other. Though this isn't a feature most people will use every day, this updated version of Caravan lets users add "friends" and track where they are or going while exchanging directions, points of interest, audio, et cetera.
It's perfect for caravanning or road rallying because one user can send a message to an entire group. This could also work well for bikers, urban hikers, or other large groups of iPhone-equipped travelers. Plus, it's a good way to avoid people you don't want to see.
Among the app's users is Texas's Travis County Sheriff's Department, which Trapster discovered was entering in their own traps before they went out to try and pop speeders. Why? According to sheriff's deputy Tom Carpenter, "If I can get my compliance without writing a ticket, I've done my job."
If there's a speed trap logged by a known law enforcement official, it'll show up with a custom graphic, seen above, so drivers will know how close they are to getting busted. We've fooled around with it between Houston and Austin (the latter is in Travis County), and it worked exceptionally well, giving advance notice of impending speed traps as well as detailed traffic information.
The days of geotagging your photos, loading your trip points into Google Maps by hand, and then posting all the info to Facebook are over. Trapster's "My Trips" feature will track your journey and automatically upload any photos, video, or notes you take along the journey to a custom map online that you can share with friends. See a great roadside attraction or stop at a delicious restaurant? You can mark it for future reference. We can think of a million uses for this, both professional and personal. You can see a sample trip here.
In addition to pointing out county mounties, Trapster 4.0 adds a few new road hazards to the reporting list. These range from helpful alerts about scenarios like road closures or construction zones to notifications of things like brush fires and roadkill.
You can download Trapster for at the iPhone App Store, Blackberry App World, Palm software store or at their site.