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Waze offers cities a trove of data to help fight traffic

Huawei Mate 10 Pro camera sample traffic
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

You may have used the Waze app to avoid traffic, but what if that data could be used to fight traffic data on a larger scale? That’s what the Waze for Cities Data program aims to do. Waze is making anonymized user data available to cities for free on Google Cloud and adding the tools to help urban planners analyze it.

Waze for Cities Data launched in 2014 as the Connected Citizens Program. It started with 10 city partners and has since grown to 1,000 partners globally, according to Waze, encompassing both cities and other entities that can make use of the app’s crowdsourced traffic data. Partners will now have access to Waze data collected since April 2019 via Google Cloud, as well as analysis tools BigQuery and Data Studio, which were designed to make sense even to lay audiences, according to Waze.

What can users do with this data? Genesis Pulse, an emergency services software provider, started using Waze data to give first responders real-time crash alerts from Waze users. In 40% of cases, crashes are reported by Waze users 4.5 minutes before they are called in via 911 or an equivalent method, according to Waze. According to the Federal Communications Commission, a one minute decrease in average ambulance response time saves more than 10,000 lives in the United States annually, Waze noted.

Public agencies that apply for the program can analyze up to 1TB of data, and store up to 10GB of data, for free each month. The basic data analysis tools are free as well, but more advanced tools will require a paid account. Cities will also be able to store and analyze their own data, while maintaining complete control of it, according to Waze.

Waze’s data-sharing scheme is already proving popular. The top three contributors are the cities of Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Jose, according to Waze. The government of Miami-Dade County and the state transportation agencies of Massachusetts and Virginia are also major contributors, as are both New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates large chunks of the Big Apple’s transportation infrastructure. So the next time you open up the Waze app, know that you may be helping to fight urban traffic.

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