A good thing just got better. Just in time for winter, Waze is adding a snow warning feature to its popular crowdsourced navigation app.
The Google-owned service already offers much more than standard GPS directions. Drivers can share and verify virtually any traffic-related info with other Waze users (Wazers) in real time. This applies to everything from accidents, construction and detours to reporting potential speed traps, missing signs, flooding or even potholes.
Now anyone—motorists or people out shoveling their driveway—can use the app to report icy and snow-covered roads, in particular those that haven’t been plowed. This will better inform nearby drivers and allow them to adjust their route accordingly, Waze says.
Wait, There’s More
Updated winter road conditions aren’t just communicated to nearby drivers. Waze also is working with local authorities. In fact, the company developed the new feature with the Virginia Dept. of Transportation.
VDOT is part of the Waze for Cities Data program, which shares anonymized data from the app to aid service providers. During the winter, the thinking is that agencies can use Waze to respond faster to changing conditions and deploy snowplows or emergency vehicles accordingly. Data also can be aggregated to spot trends and better prepare for future snowstorms.
Other projects promise similar benefits. City planners and authorities, for example, could use Waze data to identify areas with high accident rates, better tailor traffic light timing to volume patterns and improve traffic management during sporting events, concerts and other large events or emergency situations.
The power of Waze comes from the size and interaction of its crowdsourcing base. While a vehicle’s speed and location automatically are fed into the company’s database, it’s up to individual drivers to report (hands-free of course) everything else. The more contributors, the better the information becomes.
Waze claims to have more than 130 million monthly users worldwide. This gives it the critical mass that for now is a distant dream for fledgling V2V and V2X systems, which typically require some sort of in-vehicle device that can share select data with nearby cars and the infrastructure over a cellular or wi-fi network.
Waze also benefits from being part of Google, which acquired the Israeli company in 2013. This provides another type of size—funding/marketing resources—necessary to develop new products and add customers.
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