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When Waze Comes to Town

When Waze Comes to Town
by Roger C. Lanctot on 07-27-2016 at 12:00 pm

Waze’s Connected Citizens program, rolled out in October of 2014, was envisioned as a means for cities to create a two-way data exchange between Waze users and cities for communicating urgent traffic information as well as to facilitate the analysis of traffic patterns. In other words, Waze wanted to be part of the solution to the traffic woes plaguing cities all over the world.

Connected Citizens Fact Sheet:http://tinyurl.com/h6e7ste

The concept is clever and forward thinking – nothing similar has been publicly pursued by competitors TomTom and HERE which have built their business around auto makers, transportation departments and enterprise applications. Waze is unique as a business-to-consumer application-based and crowdsourced traffic solution. The application has become so popular, in fact, that in recent years it has become part of the problem it was intended to solve.

Launched with 10 cities around the world, the program now claims 63 partners including city, state and country government agencies, nonprofits and first responders. Waze has become the de facto traffic and navigation app of choice in many cities where it is available. This pervasiveness has introduced a Waze Factor into local traffic management efforts.

From Washington, DC, to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, Waze users (Wazers?) are following Waze’s traffic-influenced route guidance slavishly into secondary and tertiary streets not built for nor accustomed to large volumes of traffic. This scenario has forced potential Connected Citizen partners to invite Waze in for a chat to better understand how the app is influencing local traffic and how local authorities can work with Waze to find coping strategies.

In some instances, Waze has offered to adjust its algorithms to shift traffic away from troublespots identified by local agencies. But Waze’s willingness and ability to make these adjustments has exposed the fact that Waze isn’t so much basing its guidance on predictive models as it is sending its users to the nearest open routes.

The latest wrinkle is a lawsuit being brought by a toll road operator in Israel claiming that Waze is deliberately steering its users away from or at least not offering the option of using the company’s Fast Lane on Route 1 into Tel Aviv. (Waze Sued over Toll Road Rerouting – http://tinyurl.com/zr65gcv)
Depending on the outcome of the lawsuit we can now add Waze’s willingness to put its thumb on the routing scales for reasons known only to Waze. What are Waze’s other shortcomings?

[LIST=1]

  • Multi-minute lag in identifying incidents
  • Multi-minute lag in identifying the conclusion of an incident
  • Distracting pop-up offers and notifications
  • Preference for secondary and tertiary roads
  • Guidance based on real-time, rather than predictive modeling

    As always in the case of Waze, the key caveat is: Use whatever traffic/navigation app works best for you.

    The Connected Citizens outreach to cities is a positive step to integrate local traffic and incident reports into the Waze app. The effort can certainly help improve traffic event identification.
    The new traffic reality is that Waze’s influence has become a factor in the very problem it is trying to solve. City, state and Federal traffic agencies around the world are wise to heed Waze. The question remains as to whether Waze is a weed or a virus infecting the traffic landscape or whether Waze will become the dominant and preferred means of communicating official traffic information to drivers.
    Car makers, navigation software designers, system integrators and traffic information companies will do well to weigh Waze’s influence and its clever marketing efforts. Waze has a growing roster of competitors gathering vehicle probe data including transportation network companies and insurance companies running usage-based insurance programs. The question that remains: Who are you going to call next time you’re in a jam?

    Roger C. Lanctot is Associate Director in the Global Automotive Practice at Strategy Analytics. More details about Strategy Analytics can be found here: https://www.strategyanalytics.com/access-services/automotive#.VuGdXfkrKUk

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