Google Moves Fast to Power up Waze on Google Maps

By Tony Rizzo August 20, 2013

After we speculated on Google bidding for Waze and then having nodded with definite approval once the deal between them was formally announced back in early June, we assumed that it would be a good while before we began to see any real synergies between Waze and Google Maps - likely not until early 2014 or late in 2013. Well, we were wrong in that thinking - apparently both Google and Waze have managed to sidestep any traffic and roadblocks standing in the way of delivering at least early stage integration and today, by way of several blog posts, the two have indeed done so.

Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps, wrote the post for Google’s site. A similar though uncredited post was penned over on the Waze site. It is safe to say that both Google and Waze aspire to make it easier to “navigate” your daily life. But at this still early stage of the game, what can users expect?On the Google Maps end of things, it means that users of Google’s mobile app will immediately be able to take advantage of the real-time incident reports from millions of Waze users – which is of course the secret sauce behind Waze and its uncanny ability to deliver accurate real-time events and all associated driving times to whatever destinations users are headed to. 

Google Maps users can now expect to have access to, among numerous things, real-time accident reports, construction warnings, road conditions and closures, the proximity of hidden (or not so hidden) police, and immediate alerts to “just up ahead” deteriorating traffic conditions. The updates are planned to appear on Google Maps for Android and iOS (both for the iPhone and iPad), and will be made immediately available in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Switzerland and the U.K. The image below provides a quick glimpse of Waze integration with Google Maps.

The Waze community will also benefit from two new features. First – and this is for Waze users while on the road – the Android and iOS versions of the app have been updated with Google Search. Wazers will now have access to even more search results when navigating than was previously the case. Google Search joins other available search providers, increasing the chances for users to find favorite businesses and any local address. When one does a search in Waze, the bottom of the Waze screen shows a collection of search engines (including sites searched from such as Foursquare and Yelp); now you will also see Google Search there.

The second feature is not one that is actually visible to traveling Waze users, but is in fact enormously useful for the huge contingent of Waze map editors who update the collective Waze maps ongoing. To do so, they use the Waze Map Editor. The information available to Waze map editors is sometimes detailed and sometimes not quite so detailed. The former makes it easy for an editor to handle a map update; the latter makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to do so. What can Google provide to make the Waze Map Editor much more useful? After a successful beta test, the Waze Map Editor now includes Google Street View and satellite imagery. We all know these tools courtesy of Google Maps (available on both the mobile and desktop versions) but imagine how much easier it will be for editors to now build out and correct map errors when details are not quite as rich as they need to be.

The Waze editing team will certainly appreciate having Street View and the satellite-based aerial imagery directly on hand as they provide their edits. The tools will also help to fill in house numbers, street names, turn restrictions and other missing data. It is a significant step for Waze though since it is behind the scenes it will be hard for the typical Wazer to discern. That is, until they begin to notice ever more accurate maps, travel details and notifications. The image above shows the Waze Map Editor in action while utilizing Google Street View.

As we’ve noted elsewhere, we are avid Waze users. We can now anticipate being even more avid users. Adding Waze details to Google Maps certainly makes the Waze experience one that will now reach hugely larger audiences made up of both Android and iOS users. This particular issue was important to Waze’s founder. Being available on both iOS and Android is a key reason why he agreed to be acquired by Google while having earlier spurned efforts by the iOS-only Apple to bring Waze in-house.

Apple, of course, could certainly have used Waze to bring much needed value to its own map app. It will be interesting to see what Apple will do to counter these latest advances by both Google and Waze. The power of real-time information – and here we need to make clear we mean “highly accurate” real-time information – is the Waze game changer. One can hope Apple will get to something at least half as useful, but it won’t happen overnight. For Apple, the speed bumps that Waze and Google are effortlessly jumping over are still there.

Edited by Alisen Downey

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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