The Autobahn app is only partially usable even after a year | Free press

The Autobahn app was presented as “a milestone in the digitization of transport”. But even twelve months later, drivers and experts are still questioning the meaning of the proposal.

Berlin.

The concept of the Autobahn app made sense: Autobahn GmbH des Bundes should not keep a wealth of data about the current state of the federal motorway for itself, but make it available to drivers via a smartphone app. After all, a state-owned company knows every construction site and also knows when it will be closed again. The highway company can also provide reliable information about heavy traffic jams or dangerous accident sites.

However, the Autobahn app had to fit from the outset one basic function that other map apps can perform, namely the actual navigation. This is still the case one year after the first version of the application was presented on July 20, 2021 and after 750,000 downloads. For example, if you are looking for a route from Berlin to Bremen, you will see a description of the usual route through Magdeburg and Hanover, including all difficulties along the way. However, this information is only relevant before the journey begins. The application is not able to dynamically issue turn instructions (turn-by-turn commands) while driving.

The app also cannot suggest alternative routes in real time, for example, to respond to the total closure of A2 near Magdeburg, as it was last Tuesday. Instead of recalculating the route and showing an alternative via the A24 via Hamburg, the app only indicated in this specific case that the route via the A2 was delayed by more than three hours. On the other hand, thanks to maps from Google, Apple, TomTom and other providers, users were correctly directed to an alternative route.

Required to use the Passenger application

However, users miss not only the navigation function. The app has also been built in such a way that it is virtually impossible to use it while driving. There is no voice control for this. There are also no plans to integrate with Apple CarPlay or Google Android Auto systems that safely transfer smartphone applications to the infotainment screens of modern cars. If you want to operate the Autobahn app while driving, you need a passenger or you need to stop in a parking lot to browse the app safely.

User reservations can also be seen in the ratings. The app received 2.4 out of 5 stars on the App Store and 2.9 out of 5 stars on the Google Play Store.

However, in recent reviews, only one star is often given as Autobahn GmbH has disabled the popular feature. Initially, users could find out about the road situation from hundreds of web cameras along the highways. Now I get only the error message: “Due to the current developments in Europe, we have decided to exclude webcam images for now.” As a result, according to one review, the application “has become unusable”. Many users complain that tax money was wasted here. According to Autobahn GmbH, the development of the app cost 1.2 million euros.

Bitkom: Expectations were not met

Criticism of the Autobahn app in stores also reached the digital association Bitkom. “The federal motorway application has fallen short of expectations,” said Bitkom CEO Bernhard Rohleder of the German Press Agency. “It offers no recognizable added value compared to existing offers such as avoiding traffic jams or showing the nearest gas station. This is also shown by user ratings in app stores. “

In fact, one should be glad that the public sector is expanding digital offerings, said Rohleder. “But they should be based on people’s needs and, above all, start where there are no suitable private offers.” Rather than developing an end-customer product such as an application from start to finish, it would be more promising to provide third parties with basic data such as construction sites, electric car charging options or the current traffic flow in such a way that this information can be easily integrated with existing offers. “More citizens would benefit directly from it.”

New feature for trucks

However, the Autobahn GmbH did not want to abandon the app concept and chose a new target group: “The app offers all truck drivers many options for fast and efficient navigation,” says Immo von Fallois, Head of Communication. A quick overview was integrated into the application for “Brummis” at the beginning of the summer vacation. The app provides information on which routes are subject to holiday driving bans on Saturdays in July and August and which alternative routes are available.

Autobahn GmbH also announced a new app feature that makes it easier for truck drivers to find a parking space based on the new digital parking space registration system. The launch of the function is planned for the end of August 2022.

Time will tell whether the heavily criticized app concept will be thoroughly revised again: “After more than a year of app availability, we are currently reviewing the future offer,” explained Autobahn GmbH. “The new version of the Autobahn app will be available by the end of the year.” (dpa)

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