There has been a lot of talk lately about the difference between Google Maps and Waze for optimal commuting. Opinions suggest that Google is better when it comes to public transport while Waze is the Driver’s app.
This article from CNBC is a great primer on how to set up Waze on your phone, and also includes a video about towns like Leonia, which I have blogged about before where locals are sick and tired of Google Maps routing people through residential streets as a ‘rat run’.
This is effectively where the arterial road or motorway is heavily congested, but motorists can gain anything from a few car spaces to several minutes reduction in their commute by dissecting the route through minor residential streets.
In some Californian towns they are combatting this by requiring that those roads are only available for use by residents (identified by authority stickers in their cars) and service providers. Others can be ticketed and fined for using those roads and this is periodically enforced by the local police department.
The challenge that towns like Leonia have is that unless the app that people use, like Google Maps, know about the restrictions, they will keep recommending that drivers take the rat runs, which is how many people get introduced to them in the first place.
The argument in the article from CNBC is that you would use Google Maps for commute times via public transport because it has data on routes and timetables but Waze is better for driving because commuters (safety recommendation recommends that the data is entered legally by the passenger in the car) enter information about crashes and traffic jams themselves and others validate it as they drive.
The story goes on to say that in the area the writer lives in, there are 50,000 Waze users. That sounds great and it may be correct in the US, although research suggests that most commuters are still single occupancy cars, so the majority of those users would not be entering data and anecdotally many of those who do, use it to report speed traps and cameras.
I don’t know about you but speeding isn’t an option anywhere near me during rush hour, so knowing where a speed camera is has no relevance to my route or how I drive it. I also know that where I live in New Zealand very few people use Waze in comparison to the US.
So the story goes that Google (who do display traffic congestion based on Android and Google Maps users) are looking at bringing in similar traffic information curation and other features to its core product, which could potentially render Waze obsolete as a separate company.
There have been interesting quotes from Google Vice President Brian McClendon including:
“We’ve all been there: stuck in traffic, frustrated that you chose the wrong route on the drive to work.
“But imagine if you could see real-time traffic updates from friends and fellow travellers ahead of you, calling out ‘fender bender, totally stuck in left lane!’ and showing faster routes that others are taking.
“The Waze product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now.
“We’re excited about the prospect of enhancing Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google’s search capabilities.”
This is promising because Google knows all about us (because we allow them access through our use of freemium Google devices and applications and it would make life so much easier for users who could run fewer apps to get the same outcome. The average user doesn’t even know about Waze IMHO or how to use it effectively and legally if they do.
Alphabet owns both companies, so merging or sharing data in near real tie would make good sense.