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Analysis

How Google Maps and Waze Force New Roads

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 17:09

It is 8:30 am. You have 30 minutes to get to work and you are exactly 30 minutes away from your office. It looks as if this is going to be a perfect day, but then you see endless rows of red brake lights and not a single sign of movement. You start to get desperate and you begin to pray for a way out of this torment, but you know you will be stuck in traffic for the next hour. Finally, you make it to your office, where everyone is talking about the blocked road that forced them to look for other routes to work. At first you wonder why nobody warned you, but that is when you hear them mention how wonderful life is with Google Maps and Waze

Google Maps officially appeared in 2005 after Google acquired the software from Where 2 Technologies in 2004, and it has remained in constant actualization from that moment on. After its acquisition, Google transported the entire platform to a mobile application, eventually modifying it to include navigation, voice commands, and traffic reports. 

By 2007, Google Maps had added 54 new locations to its network and had integrated its Google Traffic extension to report real-time traffic flow conditions in 30 US cities. Street View was also introduced for some major cities in the US, allowing users to view a ground-level 360° view of the photographed streets. Nowadays, there are more than two billion active users of Google Maps around the world, 40% of whom access the platform through mobile devices. These users make Google Maps the most powerful service it can be by accessing the application through their mobile device and sharing their location, in combination with the historic data from the users, Google Maps can create precise and real-time information that is constantly updated as new users enter the application. Once all these factors are merged into a single database comprised of different users in the area, Google Maps can calculate average speed and traffic jam zones, showing traffic flow on any route through a color coded system. Green roads show traffic free areas, while yellow and red roads indicate different degrees of traffic congestion. The darker the color, the heavier the traffic you might encounter. It is clear that as more users enter the application, the more precise the data will be.

In 2006, Waze was founded in Israel to create a free map of the country, but this ambition quickly escalated to the point of posing a real competition to Google Maps. In 2013, Google decided to acquire this company as well, making both applications twice as powerful as they were in the beginning. The thing that made Waze attractive for most users was its collaborative approach. Apart from offering routes and locations, Waze offers users the opportunity to input road conditions and other relevant traffic information. Adding that to data regarding normal traffic conditions, this platform was able to create far more precise information than Google Maps. After the acquisition of Waze, all information that users brought to this platform was immediately reflected in Google Maps, thus benefiting users of both programs, informing them about accidents, road blocks, or just regular changes in traffic and estimated travelling times. Since then, both platforms have expanded rapidly, changing the traffic culture in countries all over the world. Mexico City has always been known for its traffic jams and general faulty road conditions, but millions of users have found solutions to the everyday traffic challenges thanks to Google Maps and Waze. Bit by bit, most Google Maps features have arrived to the country. Just this year it was announced that Mexican users will finally be able to access Google Transit. With this extension, commuters can now find the best way to get to their destination using public transportation, getting full information regarding tariffs, schedules, routes, and available stops.

Google Maps and Waze have proven to be extremely useful, and they are constantly improving their navigation capabilities. In the future, these platforms are destined to be used for more sophisticated technologies such as autonomous driving. Autonomous cars will require the ability to navigate every road, and will have to comply with every traffic regulation, which means telematics and connectivity will have to combine with a complete database in order to circulate without any problems. This might seem like a distant concept, but the future is gaining more and more ground every day.