No one likes getting stuck in traffic, and everyone loves to find a new shortcut that makes commuting shorter. So it’s no surprise that Waze, the real-time, user-sourced traffic report app for smartphones, has taken off in Los Angeles. However, the app is apparently starting to cause a problem: As tech-savvy drivers avoid traffic in one place and reroute through previously quiet streets, they cause problems where there were none before. Some residents of these affected areas are not pleased.
Waze alerts its users to traffic accidents and any activity from rescue personnel. Drivers on the 405, the most heavily trafficked freeway in the country, have begun to route around problems by venturing into neighborhoods like Brentwood and Sherman Oaks, where residents are not used to seeing a heavy commuter presence. Apparently, they’re striking back by reporting fake accidents in their neighborhoods so that people looking for a shortcut will be discouraged from heading into their neighborhoods.
This supposed spoofing, which was first reported by radio station KPCC, has yet to be confirmed.
While no one would go on record for the story, numerous locals said they know of people who report fake crashes to throw drivers off their scent and lead them away from their neighborhoods. “I don’t know if you could find anyone who would admit to doing it, but several people have said they will,” Brentwood resident Joann Killeen told KPCC.
But Waze spokesperson Julie Mossler is quick to throw water on these reports, insisting that “a group of neighbors can’t game the system.” According to Mossler, Waze works on a merit system. Users who have made the most accurate reports have higher-ranked reports—the info that they send in is more trusted by the app’s algorithm. Should a fake accident appear on your map, it’ll be cleared within minutes when the app refreshes the map automatically and uses information acquired from users who have passed by and noted that the traffic is clear. Furthermore, she says that they haven’t actually seen any evidence of this attempted chicanery and points out that many of the people she has seen interviewed about new traffic admit to using Waze themselves.