GPS Tool to Warn of Local Crash Risks

John Lister's picture

A Google-owned map tool will now warn drivers about known accident hotspots. But the information might not be all that useful for now.

The new feature is in Waze, a GPS navigation tool that began in 2006, with Google buying it out in 2013. It's original selling point was that it combined data from multiple users to spot where they were driving slower than expected, indicating congestion. It then adjusted its recommendations for the quickest routes.

Although Google owns Waze, it still operates as a separate service. That lets Google use it as a smaller scale test ground for features that might later come to Google Maps, highlighting both practical and potential issues that might give either app a bad rap. For example, a Waze feature telling drivers about police stops caused so much controversy that Google ditched the feature, rather than adopt it for Google Maps.

Alerts Limited To Maintain Impact

The new feature uses what Google is hyping as an "artificial intelligence" tool to predict locations with a risk of crashes. It will combine multiple sources including historical crash data, traffic levels, the type of road and user reports. (Source:

Users will see an alert if their route is about to take them through a "crash-prone road". The idea is that this will mean they exercise extra caution and pay more attention than normal.

Google notes that having too many alerts would have diminishing returns with users taking less and less notice. It says that as well as limiting alerts, it won't tell users about crash risks on routes that they regularly drive.

Crash Severity Not Assessed

The technology does have some limitations, however. For now the historical crash data will be based on reports from Waze users rather than any more comprehensive records. It also appears the stats will simply cover the number of reports, rather than put extra weight on reports of major crashes.

All crashes will be counted, regardless of whether they were between two vehicles or a vehicle and a cyclist or pedestrian. That means drivers getting the alert won't necessarily know the best way to watch out for specific risks in a specific location. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Is this a useful tool in principle? How many alerts would be too many and cause you to stop taking notice? If the tool proves a success, should public authorities share any historic crash data with companies like Google to improve the accuracy?

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