Friday, May 10, 2013

Things @Waze should do

Waze is awesome.  I read about Waze before I even had an iPhone and it was the first app I installed after I finally got an iPhone.  I've pretty much used it every time I've driven and often when I've been the passenger in a vehicle.  I report problems, I do updates on their website.  I love Waze.

(If you don't know what Waze is, it's crowdsourced GPS.  As you drive, the driving conditions are reported passively and you can actively report things like construction, accidents, police traps and road closures.  It will give you driving directions and because it knows real-time road conditions, can route you around things that will slow you down.  It also can help you find the best gas prices near you.  And because you contribute by noting new roads and map changes, they happen more quickly than with a standard GPS, and with no upgrade fees or maps to purchase or download. The more people regularly use it, the better it gets.  It will also occasionally try to tempt you by suggesting you want a Chalupa and offer you directions, but considering Waze is free to use, that's a small price to pay.)

I've been sitting on this post for a few days now, just a riff I threw out the other night and then saved in draft without posting.  But with the news that Facebook's making a run at it, I might as well post it.  But first, let me express my disappointment.  I think it's a bad fit.  In terms of cool utility, it feels like a much better fit with Google.  To be sure, Google could probably build something similar with its own mapping tool, but it hasn't.  Which made me think that maybe they were interested.  Heck, even Apple is a better fit, even if it meant its first foray into making Android apps.  I'm sure that would offend their sensibilities but if Microsoft and Google make Android apps, this would be a case where Apple could benefit from having a cross-platform offering for all the data it provides.  So here's hoping that Facebook's offer simply causes a better dance partner to make an even better offer and make the swell folks at Waze even richer.

Anyhow, this was just a collection of ideas that have been floating around in my head for awhile of the things that Waze might do as an independent company if they wanted to expand their core offering.

From easiest to hardest...


(1) Improve the navigation address book - two columns of large square buttons would be easier to press than the current rows.

(2) Speed-based alerting - an alert two miles out is more important at 60 miles an hour than it is at 25.  Then it's just clutter way too early.

(3) Better tracking of stop lights.  Waze often wants to take a route that would be fast, except for really long stop lights.  Doesn't feel like the app adequately considers them.  Like UPS, it might be better to reduce left turns, especially across busy streets or at long stop lights.  (Or the ability to report a "Long Stoplight" so that the system can start paying more attention to that area to see if that's really true.)

(4) The ability to edit my address book from the website.  I use the same password on the app as on the website and I know the address book is saved to "the cloud" so why can't I edit it on their website?

(5) A "Send to Waze" Chrome extension.  If you're on Google Maps (or one of those other ones) and you're looking at an address (or if it sees one on a page), it would be nice to be able to send it to your address book so that when you get in the car and turn on the app, it's waiting for you.

(6) Better learning - it doesn't seem to as good a job these days of learning my favorite ways to get places and insists on these paths that I know aren't the best way to get somewhere.

(7) Waze-For-Civic - putting devices on buses, police cars, maintenance vehicles, etc. to use them as another means for tracking and traffic problems.  Would include a simple "problem" button on the dash that takes a photo and records a generic problem.  This could also allow for real-time bus arrivals and also warn people using Waze to change lanes to avoid a bus about to stop in lane (as they like to do around here).

(8) Waze Command-Central - may already exist.  Hopefully already exists.  A real-time control center set-up for law enforcement that allows them to get a eagle-eye view of what's going on in a region, complete with escalating alerts.  (Probably offered as a package of a robust computer and customized software so it can be installed in existing traffic control systems.  Pair it with Waze-for-Civic and track other civic vehicles as well as review the generic reports they create - also great in routing police and stuff.)

(9) Waze-Enhanced Car - a small bluetooth device plugged into the ODBC to let Waze know more about your car.  I'm not sure what all you can learn about the ODBC, but I assume it could then know if you're running low on fuel (and route you to the best priced gas) or if you have your windshield wipers/headlights on (to be able to better predict weather's impact on driving conditions) or if you have your turn signal on (so that can warn you if you seem to be heading in a direction other than what it recommends.)

(10) Visual Exception - this is a bit of a stretch, but in terms of local governments as a revenue source, this is something I've wanted to see someone do for a long time.  I'd do it if I knew how to program, but this is heavy math.  Essentially, this is a learning system that learns about its surroundings.  You also teach it about things like speed limits, no parking zones, etc.  And then it observes.  You mount it on all of the city's vehicles (police, fire, maintenance, bus, etc.).  As they drive around, it visually watches its surroundings.  Simple stuff like what happens now (looking for stolen cars by their license plates) but also other stuff like cars that appear to be abandoned or cars parked where they shouldn't be, etc.,
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