I trust Waze

waze screenshotI’ve had to learn to trust Waze in a few traffic jams. Now every time Waze tells me to turn, I turn. I’ve missed horrendous traffic jams that way. I’ve learned new routes to work and home I’d never imagined. I’ve seen parts of the countryside that are new to me. Waze is wonderful. Here’s hoping that Google keeps and nurtures every bit of wonderfulness.

More than a dozen years ago, I wrote a business plan for a Waze-like social traffic service. Our local traffic services sucked; still do. A long-ago colleague of mine said his rule was to go wherever the radio traffic reports said there was a jam because (a) by the time they found out about it, the jam was gone and (b) every other idiot was listening to the radio and avoiding that spot themselves. He was right.

I envisioned a service in which commuters would program our routes in and then report on how long it took them and also alerted the system to jams — all via cell phone calls (mind you, this was before smart phones). The more data you contributed, the more points you earned to get alerts back for free. If you freeloaded, you paid (see, I wasn’t against pay walls). It wouldn’t have worked then. No $1 billion for me.

Waze built that social notion and more, outdoing Google in finding the means to listen to and learn from the public to both feed in automatic data on traffic speed — your phone knows how fast you’re going — and alert the service to jams and other problems as well as errors in maps. It’s brilliant: a platform for shared knowledge.

One concern I have with Google buying it is that if *everyone* ends up using the service, then does *everyone* take the same alternate routes and then they get crowded and my old colleague’s rule comes into force again? Nah. Google and Waze are a helluva lot smarter than anybody on radio.

Congratulations, Waze. May you grow and prosper and get me home sooner.

  • Grif_E

    Obviously, your real mistake was not submitting for a patent.

  • chris

    I usually use maps, either paper maps or Google maps, to plan a route I’m not familiar with before I start the car. One day my friend suggested we use his Android phone for directions. We did. I wound up getting rear-ended during that trip. After driving the car crash-free for 10 years, it gets totaled the one day I happen to have a friend using his cell phone for navigation. Coincidence? Dunno. He was operating the phone from the passenger seat, btw, not me.

  • Eric Hydrick

    If everyone starts taking alternate routes, the alternate routes clog up, leading to people going slower. Either the (slower) alternate routes are still better than the jam, or the jam (as bad as it is) is quicker than the alternate routes. Either way, Waze can tell (because your phone knows how fast it’s going), and gives you the right set of directions. Personally I think they’ve already figured it out.

    The one issue I’ve had with Waze was that it got me lost on a trip in town, but at this point I hardly ever think to turn it on unless I’m on a road trip somewhere. I’ll have to start trying to make it a habit, especially if we can ultimately see Google’s map data combined with Waze’s reporting/traffic analysis.

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  • John Mayson

    I only starting using Wave about two weeks ago. I had heard of it, I just had no reason to use it. Here’s what bothers me about it. It encourages me (and everyone) to fiddle with my phone while I’m driving, particularly during times when I shouldn’t be. And while local traffic reports have long been a joke, Waze isn’t that much better.

    Jeff, so you don’t feel back I “invented” Amazon.com back in 1992. But back then I had to compile my own browser, Mosaic, so I wasn’t convinced “normal” people would ever embrace the web.

  • ppalme

    ppalme • 39 minutes ago −
    I have known waze for a while but it never got the user commitment in Switzerland. I am also not an app user I just prefer to have browser and everything in the cloud. With this perspective I was hoping that twitter users via relevant hashtags would share real time traffic updates, but so far users are still very reluctant. I have seen a much higher demand for live traffic webcams.

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