Waze, the app that uses crowdsourced data to build its maps and provide real-time traffic information, is introducing a new feature today allowing users to report road closures.
This seems like a pretty natural extension of what Waze does — drivers could already report things like accidents, so this is just giving them another way to get important information into the system. In fact, spokesperson Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski told me that users were already doing it in an ad hoc way, where the names of roads would be edited so they said (for example), “Capitol Ave CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION.”
Now, Waze says there’s a more official way to report a closure on the map, dropping a pin on its location and providing more details if you want, such as whether it’s closed for construction or an event or some other reason, and how long you expect the closure to last. Waze will only mark a road as closed after enough drivers (and specifically drivers who have established a good reputation in the community) have reported the closure that the app can discount the possibility of error. Different types of closures (i.e. one lane versus an entire freeway) will have different thresholds, Habdank-Kolaczkowski said.
And once cars start driving on the closed-off street again, the road will be automatically reopened on the map.
The company is also releasing some numbers about its growth. It says that it now has 40 million registered users, who shared 30 million reports in 2012 in the U.S. alone. There’s also a community of map editors who made 500 million edits in the last year.
The two announcements are related, since, in addition to building the technology for the feature, Waze also had to make sure that it had built a community where this kind of reporting would actually work.
“Only now are you expecting stuff — you expect that you should know what’s happening on the road ahead of you, you expect to know about traffic, and Waze is part of that,” Habdank-Kolaczkowski said. “And you should expect to know when the roads don’t work anymore.”