Waze is fighting for U.S. drivers—who waste an average of 42 hours in traffic every year, along with $1,400 in fuel and time—by looking beyond them.
Google’s crowdsourced mapping app, known for tapping data from its 90 million users to inform drivers of traffic accidents and road closures in real time, now delivers this information, along with insights on traffic patterns and infrastructure problems, directly to municipal governments via its growing Connected Citizens Program (CCP). “Our goal,” says program head Thais Blumenthal de Moraes, “is to eliminate traffic.”
CCP launched in 2014 but made a huge leap forward last year when it signed more than 500 partners, reaching 2 billion citizens worldwide. That includes Atlanta, which used Waze last March to disentangle a gnarly traffic jam following a bridge fire, and São Paulo, which relied on CCP to respond to 5,000 reports of broken traffic lights around the sprawling metropolis. The program also works with emergency-services agencies; in the midst of last year’s wildfires in Southern California, the national Environmental Systems Research Institute’s Disaster Response Program published a guide to help motorists avoid compromised roads. It was updated every two minutes with new data from Waze.
The company is further tackling congestion with Waze Carpool, a ride-sharing program that was piloted in Israel and San Francisco then expanded throughout California and to Texas, where it was especially helpful in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Carpool matches commuters traveling on similar routes so they can take advantage of HOV lanes and split gas costs, with each rider paying through the app. “2017 was the year we shed our navigation-app skin and became a transportation company,” says Di-Ann Eisnor, Waze’s head of growth. Carpool is widely seen as Google’s first viable play for the transportation market—and proof that for Waze, fewer drivers doesn’t have to mean fewer users.