The Waze Craze: Part I

Natalie Josef
February 16, 2011

What would we do without GPS? I suppose we would go back to writing down directions and getting lost, but why? With GPS, life is much easier, allowing us to hit the open road without fear and encouraging the wanderlust that lies at the core of all Americans.

According to one company though, GPS is missing something—a social quality. Imagine connecting with other drivers the way you connect with friends on Facebook. You could find cheap gas, the best pizza in the neighborhood, info about inclement weather, and carpools. Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?

Waze is a social media application that provides feedback from your fellow travelers in addition to traditional turn-by-turn navigation. While its 2.0 version was launched over the summer, today, Waze announced the launch of the first voice-based hazard reporting feature, which empowers its community to help each other stay alert and get to their destinations safely. Users can report on any road hazard—from accidents and weather to traffic jams and debris in the road—by recording a brief voice description that can then be shared with other drivers in the area.

Let’s say you are going to work and your neighbor, who works in the same part of the city, left a half hour before you did. You know traffic is bad on Friday mornings, so you are wondering if you should wait a while, take a different route, or just plow ahead as usual. Just go to your Waze app and you can actually hear a report from your neighbor about the protest outside City Hall and take a different route.

If you are driving in the mountains and it’s getting harder and harder to see in the blizzard-like conditions, you can leave a report to warn other drivers. And how many times have you sat in your car, wondering what caused the traffic jam you are now entrenched in? With Waze, not only will you know what caused the jam, you can find out how to avoid it in the first place. Other drivers can warn you about a mattress in the middle of the highway or the accident on Route 20. Basically, anything you see or encounter on the road, you can warn others about or be warned yourself.

According to Noam Bardin, CEO of Waze, “Every day, drivers are faced with any number of dangers on the road including ice, accidents, and flooding for example. The unpredictable nature of these hazards and lack of immediate road data leaves drivers vulnerable to the conditions ahead. The only way this information can be collected and distributed in real-time is by the initiative of group-minded individuals and a means to warn their fellow drivers.”

In case you are wondering, this app has considered the dangers of texting while driving. It actually disables your keyboard while you are driving, so you aren’t even tempted. Instead, it’s all voice control. Additional benefits include the ability to “ping” other Wazers, Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook integration, and other geo-gaming elements. The more people use it, the better it gets.

I have not actually tried the app, but I have downloaded it and plan to give it a whirl over the next couple of weeks. After that, I will report back to you and let you know if it is as cool as it sounds.

Waze is available in the Apple AppStore and Android Market Place and can be downloaded from the Waze website for Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. The new feature is only available on iPhones as of now, but updates to the Blackberry, Android, Symbian, and WinMo editions will be announced soon.

Natalie Josef

About the Author

Natalie Josef is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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