With over 100 million users logging in more than 22.5 billion ridden kilometers , Waze defines itself as ‘the free, real-time, crowdsourced navigation app powered by the world’s largest community of drivers’. It relies on user data to monitor and relay traffic information for its maps in +185 countries around the globe. Waze finds itself in the center of being the user and the source of crowdsourced information to deliver solutions to the communities it serves. This dual role in the space of distributed innovation poses Waze with challenges and opportunities ahead.
Since its inception, Waze had a problem it could not solve on its own: how to transmit live traffic information to users around the globe? The task of figuring out how to use the power in the crowd arose , and Waze set up the collaborative platform that we use today. The collaborative community set up in Waze’s application environment follows closely the model suggested by Lakhani and Boudreau (Figure 1. 2013), and Waze has found success in setting up checks and balances around the information added by users.
There are three main ways Waze collects data from the crowd: 1) users actively report on live events happening on the road (Figure 2 shows the app screen to report an event); 2) users passively relay information about driving speed and traffic conditions whenever they have the app open in the background; and 3) a network of 500,000 volunteers who constantly edit the maps used in the app . This third application of crowdsourced knowledge requires further attention to uncover its full understanding.
500,000 map editors form a self-organizing community as described in The Principles of Distributed Innovation (Panneta and Lahkani, 2013) , and Waze recognizes the value of this resource in offering reliable data to its users. By providing monetary incentives, such as organizing occasional meet ups for top editors, and by structuring the community in tiers, levels and ranks (6 in total) (Figure 3. Depicts an example of ranked editor), Waze has, so far, successfully created a community with competition, collaboration and rewards . Although the track record of success since its creation, concerns still remain that echo those of of Panneta an Lahkani, around the reasons these collaborators would continue to participate for free in helping Waze build better maps for its users. Relying on editors altruism and dedication can prove itself to be a major risk for Waze in keeping its maps up to date and reliable.
On the other side of the distributed innovation process, in 2014 Waze launched its Connected Citizens Program (CCP) by partnering with 10 cities around the world. The goal of the program is to engage with local authorities in a two-way street: Waze provides officials with traffic data, and officials inform Waze of eventual closures, interventions and road maintenance. Manager of the Program Paige Fitzgerald describes the program as ‘taking [the traffic information] and delivering it to government officials, who address incidents in real time’ .
Cities such as Jakarta and Los Angeles are now partners with Waze under the CCP and have achieved significant successes in the two-way data sharing partnership. In Ghent, Belgium, authorities have deployed a new circulation plan for traffic that has reduced accidents by 30% and increased the number of cyclists by 27% . In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Waze and the CCP supported local officers to organize and mitigate road impact of the 2016 Summer Olympics, which posed a major challenge on the city’s streets, and the two-way partnership helped Waze automatically update its maps with reported road closures that city officials determined .
The escalation of the CCP to a new venture within the company has reached a significant speed. In August 2018 Waze celebrated the 600th partner in the program, and the firm continues to sign one new partner per day on average . By looking at the program’s success through the lenses of Waze’s catchy slogan of ‘Outsmarting traffic. Together’ , we can understand the huge potential this initiative has in acting as a thought partner for local authorities, who-through access to Waze’s extensive data-can now learn from one another to shape better decisions regarding transportation issues.
In summary, Waze paves the way when it comes to crowdsourcing innovation, be it in a small incremental scale such as map edits, or in larger decisions with real world implications.
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