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Waze updated its mobile app earlier this week, letting users make changes to its map in real time.
Until the update, users of the crowdsourced maps service could leave comments and information about potential hazards, police checkpoints, and gas prices. The app also automatically collected information like drivers’ locations and speeds to improve navigation capabilities.
Now, users will have a role in reporting road closings in real time, which should make the app more current and accurate.
“Things like a ticker tape parade after a sports team has won, a construction project that cities can’t keep track of, and roads closed due to snow...” Waze’s vice president Di-Ann Eisnor told VentureBeat. “Our roads are changing all the time, and Waze has been building the capability to take care of that.”
Whenever drivers come across a closed road, they will be able to report the reason for the closure (hazard, construction, or event), and the anticipated amount of time until the road opens again. Based on user input, the app will re-route drivers in the area who planned to use the road to get to their destinations.
Waze introduced several checks in order to ensure that the information is accurate. For one, multiple reports about a road closing have to come in for the app to actually mark it closed. Waze users also earn points for their participation, so more seasoned (and, presumably, reputable) drivers will need fewer confirmations to have their changes show up on the map. When Waze sees that people are using the road again, it will mark it open.
Waze was inspired to let the crowd have more control of the map following Hurricane Sandy, when drivers used the app to report which gas stations in the Northeast were still operating. The crowdmapping company worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Google Crisis Maps to spread these reports in hurricane-ravaged areas, and the government used the information to send refueling trucks to the areas in greatest need.
Waze is one of the best-known crowdsourcing apps, with nearly 40 million users across the world. The company has come a long way since launching in 2008 in Israel (it also has offices in Palo Alto), and recently put out this infographic showing its numbers through 2012.