The Waze app revolutionized smartphone navigation. Crowdsourcing real time data from the 115 million global users of the app allows Waze to have not only the latest info from traffic flow, but also the cataloging of trends over long periods of time. In most cases, Waze has more data than the city governments themselves. Waze is now making its data available on Google Cloud to allow government officials and transportation engineers to make the most informed infrastructure choices possible.
- Waze works by crowdsourcing traffic data from individual users. Everything from the speed of vehicles to user-inputted accident and construction updates are recorded in order to make suggestions for navigation routing.
- All of that data will soon be available to cities on Google Cloud allowing better decisions to be made regarding infrastructure maintenance and improvements.
- The program will roll out initially with 12 partners in the United Kingdom, but over 1,000 global partners have already signed up.
Beside using GPS data for determining traffic flow rates, Waze also allows users to input traffic events like accidents, construction and even where police might be sitting on the side of the road. (Screenshot: Mike Febbo)
Waze App is crowdsourced navigation
If you’ve never used the Waze app for navigation, you’re missing out. While some navigation systems will take traffic flow data into consideration when determining your route, Waze uses data from millions of users to make real-time judgements on the best route for users to take. Using the GPS system in your smartphone, your speed is uploaded to Waze servers. If you are using the app for navigation, it will look at speeds of other users, and historical data to determine traffic density before giving you the optimum route. If you’ve used other navigation systems that have rerouted you from a freeway moving 35 mph, to city streets moving at 15 mph, you’ve used a system that is using radio-based traffic data that only covers freeway systems.
All of the Waze collected data, from the billions of miles covered by users, has been cataloged – they assure us it’s anonymous. The data is available to municipalities and transportation partners currently, but the distribution process is inefficient and the data may be out of date by the time it’s received and processed. Soon, it will be available in a more accessible way on Google Cloud, beginning with a partnership with 12 collaborators in the United Kingdom.
For municipalities to collect this kind of data on their own requires expensive and time-consuming traffic studies. The data is collected from the viewpoint of the infrastructure, instead of from the user, which is what really matters. The user cars how they can get to work in the quickest way possible, whether on city streets or freeways, and that’s what individual user data allows.
Eventually, this data will be used all over the world to help speed-up and better inform decisions by planners and engineers. If you aren’t currently using Waze, you should be. If you are using, convince friends. It will improve everyone’s commute.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Most of us wouldn’t want our local government monitoring every minute of our driving. However, millions of us feel comfortable allowing a third party to ride shotgun, if it means a better navigation system. All of that data can help city planners to make better decisions on how to spend limited funds to improve infrastructure, as well do things like route emergency vehicles or even change speed limits. Municipalities are getting data that would be prohibitively expensive to gather any other way and this is a win-win for Waze users – in the short-term, better navigation, in the long-term, better infrastructure.