Waze: Crowdsourcing traffic and roads

Caitlin Dempsey



Waze has a free social mobile application that uses real-time input from local drivers to update traffic conditions for other users.  Currently, those with iPhone and Android phones can download the free application.  When the application is left open on their phones, real-time GPS information about the speed of the vehicle is relayed to other users in the area.  When a car hits traffic, the route they have been traveling turns red, indicating the logjam. Users can also submit information about traffic conditions in the area by submitting reports from their phone.  Waze is also relying on crowdsourcing to update their road maps.  The base data is TIGER which can be very out of date especially in areas that have a lot of development occurring.  Users can send reports from their vehicles when encountering bad road information.  The geographic data is updated and corrected via community input on their web site.

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Waze Adds Road Goodies and Prizes

Waze, which relies on crowdsourcing to build its traffic and road navigation data, has started a ‘Holiday High Points Challenge’ to encourage users to drive in areas where map problems have been identified.  Like the game PacMan, drivers can “eat up” presents, hammers and cherries for points as they drive around certain areas.  The top three drivers that rack up the most points will receive Amazon gift cards worth $500, $300, and $200 respectively.  The game is for the United States and Canada and runs from Wednesday, November 25th through Monday, November 30th.

Rules from the Waze blog post:

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How to participate

  • Find ‘road goodies ’in areas where the map needs improvement. (Make sure you’ve downloaded the newest waze version from the iPhone Appstore/Android Market or waze.com/download)
  • Munch (drive over) as many goodies as you can between November 25-30.
  • 3 users who rack up the most goodie-related points during this time win!


Social Driving Via Waze

Waze is the social mobile application that uses real-time input from local drivers to update traffic conditions for other users and they recently announced the ability to create social driving groups.  After thirty days, 4,199 social driving groups have formed on Waze worldwide.  Of those 691 have been formed in the United States.  The largest category of drivers are social commuters (those that share a localized commute) who command 70% of all social driving groups.  One unique group that stands out is the 5% (numbering 512 users) that used Waze in their caravan to Burning Man.  Other types of social drive groups include universities, companies, and mood groups like “Sexy While Driving.”  The ability to create social driving groups and featured app placement through Android Market, Apple’s App Store and Ovi is helping to drive a robust increase in users; Waze has been embraced by more than 1.5 million drivers and has experience a rapid growth since it debuted.

The next phase for Waze is the creation of custom driving groups.  It became apparent that many groups were being created around “specific media companies, car brands, smart-phones, music and destinations.”

We saw some of these brands even starting their own groups, so together we created Custom Groups. Our first two Custom Groups are for powerful local media brands; NBC2 and The Statesman. We teamed up with NBC2 in Southwest Florida and The Statesman in Austin to experiment with citizen traffic. Both companies have loyal followers who can benefit from sharing reports with one another and, as citizen traffic reporters, can help ensure they have the most up to date road reports. The special groups include branded icons, real-time group widget and more.

4,199 Groups covering a range of categories: 70% Social Commute (Fellow commuters along your route) + 5% BRC (Caravan to BurningMan) +Interest (Share conditions with other swimmers, bikers etc) +Others: LIfestyle, Company, University, media and mood like Comcast employees, Firefighters, Filipinos and Sexy While Driving

Traffic Mapping for Carmageddon

The upcoming closure of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles as part of a freeway expansion project has put this car-centric city on high alert.  Crowd-sourcing traffic app Waze is joining in on the effort to help keep LA traffic moving.  In a partnership with local TV station abc7, Waze has launched several mapping efforts to combat what they refer to as “the Carmageddon Resistance, a grassroots band of LA drivers out there fighting traffic wherever it is found“.  As always, the Waze app can be download for iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, and Android users to track traffic conditions live.  Online, Carmageddon-resistant routes will be tracked via the Waze live map web site.

Those driving around Los Angeles that want to help out are advised by Waze to do the following:

  • Make sure to open Waze whenever you get into the car
  • Take an active role and share road reports as you encounter accidents, heavy traffic, speedcams or any kind of hazard along your way – you’ll be helping out the wider driving community in LA with this information, not just local Wazers (Extra karma points!)
  • Spread the word. “Like” the resistance on Facebook, share www.BeatCarmageddon.com with your friends and for those with smartphones, ask them to download Waze to help strengthen the amount of real-time information coming in from drivers on the road. After all, as always, the more people who use Waze, the better it gets!
Beat Carmageddon with Waze.
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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.