Building a live driving map of the United States using crowdsourcing might sound pretty ambitious at first sight but Waze optimism is built on the success experienced so far in Israel where it was launched to the public in January 2009. In only four months 90% of the Israeli street network has been recorded in the Waze database and over 80,000 drivers are relying on the system for their commute.
To make things slightly easier Waze is only starting its U.S. venture in the San Francisco Bay Area with an Alpha version of its software to fine tune its system for a later, nation-wide launch.
The Waze client runs on users' smartphones (Nokia, Android and soon iPhone), it automatically and anonymously sends back GPS points as they drive. This data is then used to build and constantly update the road grid, driving directions, road changes, traffic flow, and more. Waze also uses aggregated driving speed data to determine traffic jams and other changes in road conditions. Drivers can report road problems and some map inaccuracies with one click on the client; more extensive map editing is done via the waze website. The waze map platform is soon to open APIs to allow developers to build other features and applications that leverage the waze-generated collection of live map data.
In the United States, instead of starting a map from scratch, Waze will be using the Tiger census map data as a basemap. This free federal map data is now getting a bit old but at least it is a good start so the first users don’t have a blank screen.
Waze, which was previously known as Freemap or Linqmap was started in 2006 as a one man project by Ehud Shabtai, a software engineer. Last year, Waze raised a first round of financing for an undisclosed amount from three venture capital firms: Blue Run Ventures (USA), Magma Ventures (Israel) and Vertex Venture Capital (Israel).