Alphabet is constantly changing its signature mapping technology, Google Maps. The biggest news from 2019 was Google’s cannibalization of a feature previously only found on Waze: Crowdsourced road diversions. (It’s worth noting that Waze was bought by Alphabet Inc.’s Google in 2013 for just under $1 billion).
As of this month, all users, including iOS users, can tap on the information bar at the bottom of the app, then tap the + sign, and then tap “Add a report.” From there, a menu with seven options appears: Crash, Speed Trap, Slowdown, Construction, Lane Closure, Disabled Vehicle, or Object on Road. “Diversion” reports have been available on Waze since 2011, and Android users have been able to test the feature on Google Maps since January, but the new addition of millions of iOS users is still a big deal. The app’s overall pool of collective intelligence is now more than 1 billion existing users in 40-plus countries.
Waze still has a few tricks all its own: The app allows users to add custom “police” reports, including DUI checkpoints. Drivers are also alerted to the presence of fixed cameras. When approaching a speed radar camera, an automated voice pipes up with: “speed camera ahead.” For more helpful tools, see these hands-free driving devices you need in your car now.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Waze is unpopular with plenty of police officers. But as Google Maps takes on more of the attributes of its plucky app cousin, a veil of resignation seems to have settled on the law enforcement community. Back in February, the New York Police Department demanded “upon receipt of this letter
” that Google remove the “police” reporting feature. (Clearly, without success.) In light of the recent changes to Google Maps, there’s been a notable dearth of irate press releases or statements.
And here’s a twist: Some officers seem to even like the idea of a speed-trap reporting function. As Sergeant Kerry Bates, a traffic cop in Edmonton, Canada, told the National Post in March: “If it [Google Maps] slows people down and they know it’s there, that’s good,” he said. “It’s fine. It does the trick.”
It’s also helpful to know the best practices for winter driving.