waze_guyI had a chance last week to spend a half hour with a couple of guys from waze as they showed me what they were working on. Its real-time, user generated mapping is something we’ve not yet seen here in the US and I think it could really work well. Android is the perfect platform for launching such a service.

Check this out…  GPS in your handset helps you find traffic and road conditions as they exist in real time. The app works simply by having it on your phone and driving. Your location and speed help other drivers and vice versa. Users are able to get notifications of hazards, accidents, speed traps, and more as they travel. It’s almost Wikipedia-like in how it works. See an accident on your way to work? Let everyone know about it so that other routes might be suggested. Find out if the road ahead is icy this morning so you know which way to go.

Now this will only work if people adopt it and use it. There’s that fear of “What if I am the only person really using this?” to contend with. Will it roll out and gain mass appeal? Well, I learned last week that in just 4 months since this was launched in Israel, there were over 83,000 people using it. According to waze, this would equate to 3M users here in the US. Sounds like it is doing alright to me.

So… If you live in San Francisco, Chicago, or Boston and have a G1, waze wants you to help! There’s a private alpha going on right now and they would love it if you’d give it a whirl.

Check out the full press release below.

###Application offers real-time road intelligence and answers the commuter question “Which way should I go today?”###

Where 2.0, San Jose, Calif. – May 19, 2009 – waze, Inc., the first free provider of driver-generated maps and real-time road information, today unveiled a new platform for creating and maintaining live maps in the United States. Also at the Where 2.0 conference today, waze launched a private alpha program for its first mobile application, which harnesses driver-generated data to build navigable road maps and provide real-time information to commuters on the latest road conditions, traffic, street closures, speed traps and more. The application, already widely used in Israel, will open to the general public in the coming months.

“While a lot of information is available about road conditions, we all know it doesn’t really help us with our every-morning dilemma – what’s really happening on the roads, how long will our commute take today, and which route is best right now?” said Noam Bardin, CEO of waze. “waze is a network of drivers who work together to save time – everyone contributes and everyone benefits. By aggregating the status of all connected wazers, such as GPS traces and active reporting of speed traps or road hazards, we can build and share back a real-time or ‘live’ map which reflects the current state of the roads, finds the best route and guides the waze members though it in their daily driving.”

How it works

The waze client runs on users’ smartphones, it automatically and anonymously sends back GPS points as they drive. This data is used to build and constantly update the road grid, driving directions, road changes, traffic flow, and more. Waze also uses aggregated driving speed data to determine traffic jams and other changes in road conditions. Drivers can report road problems and some map inaccuracies with one click on the client; more extensive map editing is done via the waze website. The waze map platform is soon to open APIs to allow developers to build other features and applications that leverage the waze-generated collection of live map data.

History of Success

waze launched its first mobile application in Israel, where it has been downloaded by more than 80,000 commuters and is the fastest-growing navigation application in that market. Within less than a year the community created the entire navigable map from scratch, and real-time traffic information reached approximately 90 percent coverage and over 85 percent ‘estimated time of arrival’ accuracy. waze has tens of thousands of daily commuters in Israel, using it several times a day to receive optimal traffic-aware routing to their destination for free.

“The market for navigation technologies is quickly shifting to connected devices, led by the proliferation of GPS-enabled smartphones with always on broadband access,” said Mark Fitzgerald of Strategy Analytics. “The traditional map making technologies are labor intensive thus expensive. Real-time maps used for connected device applications face price pressure to provide cost-effective navigation and traffic solutions. A user community-driven approach to map and road information can provide both the functionality and the free-to-consumer cost structure to serve as the map for the mobile generation, just as Wikipedia serves as the Encyclopedia for the Internet generation.”

Mobile Application Features

waze’s mobile application will include a set of features to help drivers make the right decision about which route to take, every time, including:

  • “Live” street maps which will update with road closures or other road changes
  • Real-time traffic – for highway and city streets – instantly communicated by other waze users who are actually on the road
  • Scrolling traffic and road condition updates
  • Driver-contributed information about speed traps, traffic, and other roadside hazards
  • Ability to post information directly to Twitter and share real-time photos

To start using the service, drivers simply download the application to their mobile smartphone, activate it on their daily commute, and it anonymously sends and receives relevant, live map information around their particular location.

Private Alpha

Waze has launched an alpha version of its mobile application in San Francisco, Chicago and Boston, and plans to open a public beta in the coming months. The application will be available on iPhone, Android and Windows Mobile devices.

Drivers who would like to sign up for the beta should visit www.waze.com and provide their handset and contact information. Waze will notify users as the application becomes available on their device and in their area.

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