Some really cool mobile applications have been popping up to help car drivers better manage their commute and thus reduce their carbon footprints — GreenMeter, Carbon Tracker, CarCare, and now Nissan's spiffy new app which will allow your iPhone to communicate with your electric vehicle.

But one of the best ways to reduce both unnecessary gasoline usage and rush-hour road rage is to avoid traffic congestion. A report by TTI estimates that Americans spend 4.2 billion hours sitting in traffic annually (approximately 1 work week per commuter) which wastes 2.8 billion gallons of gas (about $80 billion worth).

Google maps does have a nifty feature that allows a driver to preview freeway speeds, but if you have used it you will know the reporting is far from real time and does not include busy state roads and city thoroughfares.

The Waze app (available on both Android and iPhone platforms) is about to change all that. A next-generation crowdsourced map, Waze uses the device's accelerometer to track average road speeds and lets drivers augment the data by tapping on a menu of reporting options —accident, speed trap, road construction, etc.

All those mini traffic reports are knitted together into one map, giving the driver an up-to-the-minute picture of the commute ahead in "near real-time" (it takes approximately 30 seconds for the user-generated data to appear on the map).

Since the data is 100 percent user-generated it may take a while for your city's map to be usable, and I also noticed (in my limited trial at home) that it can be a little dangerous unless you have a dashboard-mounted cradle. I was a little distracted by the data pop-ups as well as the strangely addictive feature of watching other Waze users as they drive past you on your iPhone.

Waze definitely changes the act of driving and connects us drivers in a whole new way. You can download the app on the Waze site.

Photo: smitty42/Flickr

Waze: Crowdsourced traffic control
A new iPhone app lets drivers report traffic conditions to each other in real time.