What if you could instantly change car navigation maps for other drivers whenever you encountered a closed road?
That’s the idea behind the social driving app Waze’s newest feature, which is built specifically to let you report road closures in real-time, alerting other Waze users in the process.
The feature is a natural extension of what has made Waze essential for almost 40 million users. The app’s claim to fame is its ability to let you to report traffic jams and other road hazards as you encounter them. Now with this new road closure feature, you’ll be able to directly affect Waze’s maps, which will then instantly reroute other drivers in your area.
“The one thing that nobody is crowdsourcing in the map space is real-time road closures, because it needs so many different things,” said Di-Ann Eisnor, Waze’s vice president of platform, in an interview with VentureBeat. “Things like a ticker tape parade after a sports team has won, a construction project that cities can’t keep track of, and roads closed due to snow … Our roads are changing all the time and Waze has been building the capability to take care of that.”
Eisnor tells me the company was inspired to offer the feature after it was tapped by FEMA and the White House to help out in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Drivers were able to use Waze’s app to locate open gas stations (at the time, there was a gas shortage and many stations didn’t have power, which made it difficult to find gas). FEMA also took advantage of the data to determine where it routed fuel.For Waze users, reporting a closed road is just as simple as reporting a traffic jam with the app. But behind the scenes, it required some significant changes for the company. Waze previously relied on a standard amount of timing for issues like traffic jams, but closed roads can often last for several hours or days. The company had to integrate new messaging for its users, as well as checks and balances to determine that a road was actually open.
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