The Waze battle over local shortcuts

Steve Hendrix, writing for The Washington Post:

When the traffic on Timothy Connor’s quiet Maryland street suddenly jumped by several hundred cars an hour, he knew who was partly to blame: the disembodied female voice he could hear through the occasional open window saying, “Continue on Elm Avenue . . . .”

The marked detour around a months-long road repair was several blocks away. But plenty of drivers were finding a shortcut past Connor’s Takoma Park house, slaloming around dog walkers and curbside basketball hoops, thanks to Waze and other navigation apps.


Connor borrowed a tactic he read about from the car wars of Southern California and other traffic-weary regions: He became a Waze impostor. Every rush hour, he went on the Google-owned social-media app and posted false reports of a wreck, speed trap or other blockage on his street, hoping to deflect some of the flow.

He continued his guerrilla counterattack for two weeks before the app booted him off, apparently detecting a saboteur in its ranks.

Does Waze have a responsibility in these sorts of situations? Are the suburban streets fair game here?

Either way, I suspect these sorts of conflicts will end in speed bumps.

  • tylernol

    if Waze is going to tell drivers it is okay to speed through my neighborhood, I am going to tell Waze about the cops I think I see hidden in the bushes.

    • Greg

      Waze isn’t telling drivers it’s okay to speed. In fact, they are implementing ways to notify drivers of school zones, and low speed limits. Did you read the article? Connor tried posting false reports, and his account was terminated.

      • tylernol

        yes I read this article, a few others, reviewed the current Waze API, some stuff I found on github, and I read this:…/publica…/pdf/waze-mobisys16.pdf there are plenty of ways to spoof info.

  • freediverx

    If the local community objects to increased traffic due to construction or congestion on main roads, then perhaps they should elect officials who are willing to make the necessary investments to update their infrastructure.

    Waze is just disseminating information, which should never be restricted.

    • Greg

      Your logic is circular. Isn’t the construction that is causing the increased traffic on side roads a sign that the community IS investing in their own infrastructure?

      I agree, though. Waze is simply making information available.

    • rick gregory

      Thats not the issue here. It’s that instead of routing people through the marked detour route, Waze is telling each driver that there are faster routes. This makes perfect sense for each driver but when it tells that to hundreds of drivers there’s an impact on the neighborhood.

      It’s an interesting problem – each driver relies on Waze to get the best route and no one driver will have any real impact on a neighborhood but the cumulative effect will. I wonder Waze could take that effect into account and route drivers down different alternate routes that are all similar in efficiency, this spreading out the impact.

      • “I wonder Waze could take that effect into account”

        I think that’s the best solution. If Waze is crowdsourcing the information, maybe it can “massage” the info to lessen (but not eliminate) the affect re-routing traffic through sleepy neighbourhoods causes.

        • rick gregory

          Or simply route the traffic along multiple streets – I imagine in most cases it doesn’t matter if you go down this street or one over. As I said, it’s an interesting problem to try to solve at scale – they need to know that they’re sending more than some limit, etc.

      • tylernol

        Waze needs to apply weightings to neighborhood roads with low speed limits/school zones,etc. If the speed limit is 15, but people are going through at 30 during rush hour, as I have observed, as far as I can tell Waze will inform users that there is a route that users can go 30 mph on at that moment in time. Waze needs to clip that with a weighting to effectively 15 mph or less.

  • matthewmaurice

    Seems like it wouldn’t be too hard to get a real speed trap on his street. Cash-rich municipalities are a rarity today, and if “several hundred cars an hour” are going through a residential neighborhood, I’m betting finding a few each hour going more than 25 MPH (Maryland’s maximum speed in residential areas) shouldn’t be too hard (and quite lucrative).