Navigation system uses crowdsourcing for route guidance

Waze is a free navigation application for GPS-enabled phones that uses data from users to generate turn-by-turn routes and provide other information such as traffic conditions, faulty traffic lights, and accidents. I just downloaded it for my iPhone.
Waze What's most interesting about Waze is how it uses the power of the crowd to build its map database. Just by driving along with the application open, users are contributing data to Waze. Although this does make the service somewhat dependent on building critical mass in order to be successful, the company is confident they can do so. That's because Waze originally launched in Israel and in less than a year's time, they already have 91% of the country mapped. Here in the U.S., that process will obviously take longer, but Waze believes they'll have at least one metropolitan area completed in the next three months - the San Francisco Bay area, of course.

Waze: Free Turn-by-Turn Directions for Mobile Users


  1. So they’re building a lovely crowdsourced datastore, and then keeping it locked away for themselves. And planning to sell it when it’s complete enough. And refusing to let OpenStreetMap have any, or even use OpenStreetMap’s data. Excellent! What heroes of the people they are!

  2. There’s a great hack just waiting to be done here: get your friends to follow the same route over and over again, until that ‘route’ becomes the standard.

    For extra amusement, have everyone do it on bicycles and make sure that the route contains at least one segment that’s impassable to cars.

  3. The OpenStreetMap folks had better watch out for patent attacks from this company (no matter that OSM was doing crowdsource map-building first).

  4. Tried this on my G1. It seems pretty good so far, though the route it chose for me is clearly wrong (driving past on-ramps to drive the frontage road for 2 exits before getting on) but my main problem is the lousy G1 battery would barely last my 50 minute commute!

    I imagine that the routing will get smarter as more people sign up and the battery thing, well, that’s solved with a car charger, I guess.

    They make it really simple to report things (accidents, po-po, etc…) and they turn off text input while you’re driving to prevent causing more incidents.

  5. @2 “For extra amusement, have everyone do it on bicycles and make sure that the route contains at least one segment that’s impassable to cars.”

    I’m planning on taking it out on the boat tonight – maybe I can get a couple of new “streets” added.

  6. The data from this would be a goldmine for intelligence agencies.

    Given the Israeli origin and high-level financing, of Waze and the strong links to Israeli intelligence of such similar companies as Naurus (NSA telecom trunk filters and taps), Comverse (US call records) and Verint (electronic intercepts), I’d say that Waze is the most efficient possible way of keeping Mossad updated on one’s movements.

  7. It seems pretty good so far, though the route it chose for me is clearly wrong (driving past on-ramps to drive the frontage road for 2 exits before getting on)

    I obviously have no idea where you are and what route you’re taking, but that sounds like a commuter-beat-the-rushhour-traffic trick. Depending on what time of day the person who recorded that route normally drives in, and prevailing traffic conditions, that kind of little sneaky trick can shave 10 minutes off your trip time.

    I do something quite similar on my way in to work, which is why I recognize it. I skip the Montreal Road, Blair Road, and Aviation Parkway onramps and hop on at St. Laurent Blvd where the freeway traffic starts clearing up. If traffic is bad, I hang on until even the Vanier Pkway onramp – mostly because the freeway over the river is still faster than any of the other bridges in the region.

  8. Great idea, poor execution. Cute but insanely buggy, crashed my iphone, couldn’t find the GPS, finger navigation is still a long way from optimal. So I’m keeping my google maps for now, but happy to see this kind of thing.

  9. #1 said it all. Can we stop getting excited about every new little technological doo-dad we find? How about getting excited about walking and biking?

  10. “Crowdsourcing”?

    Perfect for LA rush hour.

    Get everyone else to follow the crowd, so they won’t be in my way.

    What an excellent idea. :-)

  11. @13, that would make sense if there was anyone else on the road at the time I am. I have a reverse commute, so that shortcut would add about 10 minutes over about 2 miles.

    It does get snarled up opposite me, so maybe it’s giving 8am directions when it needs to be giving 5pm directions.

  12. I’ll have to leave that running on my iPhone next time I go flying. Best route from Lynnwood WA to Everett WA is to drive past Everett to Arlington, loop around the airport 10 times over rivers and through hills covered in trees, then drive back to Everett >:D

  13. I’ve been using Waze for a few months now, and it has had an interesting effect on me. It keeps a running total (score) of all the different roads you’ve traveled on. It also tells you where you are in the standings against all other users. I started to drive down random side streets just to get my score up. I started looking forward to my vacation because of all the new roads I’d get to travel.

    It is a battery drainer, since it is constantly acquiring your GPS location. You really need to plug your phone into a car charger to run this app.

  14. OpenStreetMap is a nice and impressive project, but useless for commercial purposes as its licensing makes it impossible to do business.
    For example, is traffic information generated by users based on OSM map to be provided for a fee or must it be provided for free ? Is the Hasbro Monopoly game valid usage of OSM if advertisement money is collected ? Or perhaps OSM has to receive its cut ? No one knows, so hardly anyone can use OSM for commercial purposes.

  15. Even worse – they started out as an open mapping site (, and then the founder realized he has a ‘golden egg’ in his hand, locked down the database, and screwed his whole community over. I wanted to do a predictive traffic algorithm on his datasets , not even an API like in google maps! and yeah, they are going to SELL the traffic data to websites like Yahoo etc. It already happens in Israel. nice business model!

  16. To the guy posting #11.
    I’d say that in case the academy training did not help, my advice to a top secret agent like yourself, would be not to activate waze when going on secret missions, bank robberies, auto thieving or whatever. It could help on the getaway, but still. Use it for more relaxed activities.
    And I’ll give you another suggestion. Don’t carry a cell phone at all during the jobs you are undertaking. It’s traceable by methods somewhat more accurate then waze (like the telephone companies).
    This message will destroy itself after being read.

  17. I have been logging all my own travel for a while and thinking of doing this kind of thing with my tracks. As others have said, this is a cool bit of tech, but I would rather give my data to a more open effort that would share with

    Replying to Anonymous #20: the terms and conditions of how OpenStreetMap data can be used are clear and are much more generous than any other map data available.

  18. Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) is the standard generic term for satellite navigation systems that provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning with global coverage. GNSS allows small electronic receivers to determine their location (longitude, latitude, and altitude) to within a few metres using time signals transmitted along a line-of-sight by radio from satellites.

Comments are closed.