New Crowdsourced GPS App Tells You When to Leave

John Lister's picture

A Google-owned app aims to tell you the right time to leave on a car journey based on current traffic. It's something of a chicken and egg situation though, as the more people who use Waze, the more accurate it gets.

Waze was developed by an Israeli company and bought out by Google in 2013. Unlike most GPS navigation tools, it doesn't work solely by databases of roads. Instead, it gathers anonymized information from users about their journeys, measuring exactly how long they take to cover a particular route and where they are being held up.

The idea is to use this crowdsourced information to get up-to-date traffic information, and then adjust the recommended routes. In theory at least, Waze could even send users across different routes to help spread the load.

Users Can Report Unexpected Hold-Ups

As well as providing automated information, the app also allows users to manually add details of incidents such as accidents, backed-up traffic and street protests which may be causing delays, and which may have knock-on effects elsewhere. Although there's a game-like points system to measure such contributions; this largely works on the idea that users will take the time to provide such reports because they see it as a communal effort to improve the tool for everyone.

The latest addition to the service is called Planned Drives. It lets users type in the details of where they are going and when they need to get there, and then receive a departure time. This doesn't just take into account the distance involved, but also the predicted traffic problems and other delay factors that will be in play at that time.

Automated Alerts If Early Start Needed

As well as getting an estimate when a trip is set, users can also receive an automated alert on their phone when it's departure time. This will be adjusted automatically to give an early warning if real-time information shows traffic is worse than expected and the driver needs to leave ahead of schedule. The alert will include an explanation of what the specific problem entails. (Source:

The app also includes a couple of related features. Users can automatically have events in their calendar or Facebook account generate a departure time. They can also input the details of the person they are visiting and have the app automatically send that person live updates to say they are on the way, and then send alerts if they are likely to be late. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you find such a tool useful? Would you make the effort to report traffic jams or accidents even if doing so didn't immediately benefit you? Do you see any downsides in such an approach to GPS tools?

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Dennis Faas's picture

In theory this tool sounds like a great idea - but there are a few caveats as I see it. One is that I don't think too many users will be willing to report traffic issues, especially while in traffic. The use of texting, etc while driving should be discouraged; even so, I doubt users will take the time to enter this information after they've arrived at their destination. A more automated approach could be used by simply analyzing speeds during a route. The other issue is that detailing where you are going and who you are visiting might be seen as being too Orwellian. Government agencies might be all too willing to get their hands on this sort of information so they can secretly track people. If you don't like that idea, then the convenience factor may not be worth the 'risk' of being tracked.

Doccus's picture

If Google bought it out three years ago, just what did they buy if it's a "new" crowdsourced app? Frtom the description it's a one trick pony. OK A bunch of different tricks.. but one "horse" Perhaps it's poorly described? And if they need user input NOW what have they been doing for at *least* three years.. since they must have already been doing *something* worth Google buying them out...
All in all it's very confusing...

John Lister's picture

The app and the crowdsourcing itself isn't new. The new part is the tool that calculates (and updates/alerts) departure time.

mark_6672's picture

WAZE is very popular in Israel & initially marketed for this feature: "Your friends are just around the corner .... See other friends also driving to your destination, when you connect to Facebook. Coordinate everyone's arrival times when you pick up or meet up with friends. Now you're effortlessly in sync when you drive together."
This is a great idea to let your friends (& only your friends) know where you are when you are meeting together ... ie. if your friend is delayed in traffic then you may have time to pick up some groceries & still arrive before them.
Naturally, you would not keep this feature permanently switched on if you were worried about 'big brother' tracking your every move (though this is already largely done through your phone signal as you pass transmission points anyway).

Jim's picture

FYI, Planned Drives is only avaiable on iOS, not Android, version of the app at this time.