Waze, the Israeli-born navigation service that Google acquired for more than $1 billion in 2013, has never been a typical map app. Its maps incorporate data input by users in real time, giving drivers unprecedented control over how they navigate their cities. Now, Waze is taking its approach a step further with Connected Citizens, a program that connects those drivers directly with urban-planning personnel in 30 municipal groups around the world—with some 80 others to follow soon. Launched last fall, Connected Citizens has already had measurable impacts in some of its partner cities:
The U.S. capital is using Waze as part of what it calls Potholepalooza, according to Di-Ann Eisnor, Waze’s head of growth and the person in charge of Connected Citizens. In March, the city encouraged drivers to report potholes via Waze and committed to filling each one within 48 hours. “It’s government meeting the expectations of a mobile world,” Eisnor says.
The city used data from Waze to adjust its distribution of traffic-control personnel on Brazil’s presidential election day last October. More important, Waze is the primary way Rio will inform residents of traffic changes related to preparing for the Olympics, which the city will host next year.
Boston’s notorious drivers create notorious traffic jams, and the city is partnering with Waze to help clear them up. Via Connected Citizens, driver-inputted data will go directly into the city’s traffic-management center, where engineers can adjust the timing and duration of stoplights and other signals to get traffic moving more quickly.
“This was an interesting test for us, since we don’t have a lot of users in Sydney,” Eisnor says. Nevertheless, Waze found in a study last year that 30% of what Sydney users were seeing on the app was new to them. What’s more, 47% of the time, information made it to Waze before it made it to government news sources, despite the low penetration.