Apple Seeks Patent For Waze-Style Crowdsourced Navigation That Could Boost iOS Maps

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The U.S. Patent Office has just published a new patent application by Apple (via AppleInsider) that integrates crowdsourced traffic data for real-time information about road conditions, similar to what Waze does. Waze, which was just acquired by Google, seeks user input on changing road conditions, and rewards users for making accurate reports. Apple’s patent also offers route choices based on criteria like “Scenic Route, Light Traffic, No Construction” and more that are also rated and reviewed by users.

The system is designed for use with mobile devices with both cellular and GPS functions, which of course means the iPhone and iPad would be prime targets, and stores user ratings in a database to assign a cumulative number value to each suggested route. Thus when you’re given options in an app like Maps when seeking directions, each choice would be given a star or number value to help you make your choice, and tagged with the type of conditions on that route as mentioned above.

Once underway, users would be able to flag road problems including heavy traffic (including “protesters,” apparently), power outages, and more; potentially set a time duration for the alert; and then send those off to Apple. They’d be aggregated and then used to warn other drivers of potential delays or things to avoid, using proximity data based on location. This is essentially what Waze does with its own navigation app, with the added wrinkle that users are rewarded for reporting data, and for confirming or clearing conditions reported by other Waze users.

At the end of a trip, Apple’s navigation system would pop up requesting a route rating from users, to add back in to the crowdsourced database, which would help keeping things current. While it might be challenging to implement such as system because it would require a lot of processing of real-time data, Waze has already proven that it’s essentially possible. Should Apple put it in play, it would also probably greatly improve the quality of the company’s Maps product, which still lags behind the competition from Mountain View, and might fall even more behind now that Google has snapped up Waze.