From email comes a link to waze, a free mobile phone app (iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry) that sends back real-time GPS-or-cell-tower-derived position/speed data from phones to determine where traffic problems might be occurring, and then alerts you to potential traffic issues. Here’s their video guided tour (click on “Go” to start):
Seems like a clever idea, but I see some problems:
- Chicken-and-egg: the service only really becomes useful when lots of people use it in a specific area, but if they won’t use it until it become useful, it will never achieve critical mass. On the home page is a dropdown list of current areas at least partially covered by waze, and most of them show the project as being in the very earliest phase, with limited utility.
- The business model relies on taking user-driving tracks, and using it to create updated navigation maps for sale; they also intend to rely on users to manually make road database updates. The OpenStreetMap project has already captured a large mind-share for this concept based on generating a freely-available database, and I wonder if people will do the same for a commercial service. They plan to offer rewards points and rankings to encourage this, but who knows?
- The initial database is derived from US Census Tiger data, and doesn’t use OpenStreetMap data; they say it’s because of OSM’s data license, but I hear that may be in the process of changing. Tiger data isn’t bad, but OSM is better (since it’s Tiger data refined).
- It’s not a navigation app, only a traffic app; this may put some people off since they may expect to nav app.
- Finally, Google Maps, Bing Maps (and probably others) already offer real-time traffic data, although not with the same granularity as Waze might (i.e. local street data). But I don’t see why Google couldn’t add this particular feature to their Android navigation app fairly easily, and their large installed database would make it almost immediately useful.
But hey, it’s free – worth a look. Could be successful in the end.