Driving with Social Media
Just a quick, off topic post today on another facet of social media, and how it can influence our daily lives. Being relatively new to Regina, and not growing up in the province, navigation has been an essential for me. In the past, I have relied on the reliable and powerful Google Maps for navigation, and it has never really led me astray. Certainly strong enough to prohibit even considering paying for a standalone navigation device, like this one from Garmin.
Earlier this Fall, however, I discovered Waze, a free to use navigation app. What caught my interest is that although owned by Google, it is being run through community input. Its interface is a live map that is continually being updated and altered by drivers. Essentially, it is being run through a social media lens.
1. User Notifications: This is what the screen looks like as you are driving (if you are able to port it to your car screen):
Notice that, aside from the typical map and route information (time to arrival, distance to upcoming turn, etc) there are icons popping up on the screen. These icons are notifications from fellow drivers on hazards you may encounter on your trip. People report on construction, potholes, car accidents, speed traps, and more. The map will also illuminate roads where flow of traffic is slowed down due to traffic or accident.
2. User Created Maps: As a user, you also are able to take part in building up the live map. From what I can see, this leads it to being far more accurate, or more recent at least, than centrally controlled applications. On Google Maps, for example, entire blocks of Harbour Landing in Regina still do not appear on Google Maps. It’s neat being able to have a hand in the map thousands of people will use for their driving:
This is a screen capture of the map showing my first contribution to the map, Harbour Landing School!
3. Partnerships with Government: The kind of data collected by Waze being user driven is starting to benefit governments and larger organizations. For example, Winnipeg has partnered with Waze, offering a continuous stream of information on planned road closures in exchange for access to Waze’s information on traffic low. Waze has set up a Connected Citizens Program for this very purpose, to partner with government organizations to exchange access to live and relevant traffic date.
This different approach to navigation has not been without controversy. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department has taken exception to the way the application allows drivers to report on police positions. They went as far as saying it helps criminals avoid police, or worse yet, putting police in danger. In Israel, where Waze was originally developed, it was accused to mistakingly leading soldiers into a refugee camp, and resulted violent clashes. There has also been discussion over Waze possible enabling speeding and distracted driving.
While I don’t know enough about the controversies to have an informed opinion on them, I can speak to its influence on my own life. While not a life changer, by any means, I have found it handy to report on the spontaneous traffic issues that do arise in Regina. For example, it has helped me navigate (and strategically avoid)Arcola Avenue, a street that does not seem designed to handle the amount of traffic that is now using it as Regina continues to grow in that direction.
Thanks for reading!