I am a huge fan of Waze. For those who have not used it, it’s a basic map app which tells you the most efficient route to your destination, which factors in traffic and construction. This simple 45 second video will give you a good taste for it here. For those who feel this is similar to Google Maps – it is. Google bought this Israeli company in 2013 for $1.1 billion. Indicative of the modern times, the information is completely crowd-sourced by users (a.k.a. drivers) as 50 million+ people roam the streets.
It works. On a recent road trip with my wife, we drove to Key West covering close to 1,900 miles during the week-long adventure. We guess it’s accuracy at about 50-60%. Police, objects in the road, cars broken down on the shoulder. It was all crowd-sourced, and all useful information for out-of-town people like us.
It’s fluid and approximate. The reason it is not perfectly accurate is that conditions change. As you can see in the screen shot below, there was definitely a policeman somewhere in our future. People have them sighted at different places, but clearly there was policeman somewhere in the road ahead.
It’s a lot of fun. You can choose from more than 20 different voices and languages. You get points for reporting new incidents and accidents (6 points), and 1 point for confirming or cancelling an existing report. You can redeem points for new voices like Stephen Colbert, and Colonel Sanders (yes, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken). While I am not a real internet giver (don’t really do Yelp, Amazon, and TripAdvisor reviews), I am almost a compulsive Waze contributor. Oddly, I feel my traffic contribution matters. I have bought into the Waze game.
It’s kind of dangerous. Yes, it has voice commands, and hand-motion commands, but honestly, most people spend their time clicking their phone while driving. Smart? No.
It’s a little bit controversial. A few police departments have sent letters to Google asking that Waze remove it’s police recognition function, implying that people who want to stalk or harm police officers can use it track police whereabouts. The Atlanta makes a half-dozen rebuttals against the police’s argument here.
It’s getting more attention and credibility. The City of Los Angeles announced a formal agreement here to share official transportation data with Waze – creating a new stream of enterprise data to merge with its crowd-sourced data feed. It’s also a way for city and infrastructure planner to think about the problems. In Washington DC, the city is using Waze to fix potholes here.
It is big data. No surprise this creates a lot of data points for data geeks to play with. See the data visualization of Paris traffic here, which shows how the streets of NYC wake up in the morning and basically keeps going. You only have to watch 20 seconds to get the point that all this data is being tracked.
It can save you money. I recently got an expensive speeding ticket in New York while on a project. Yes, it cost me the price of an iPad. Since then, I have been using Waze daily. This is great news for Google, Waze and potential advertisers.