Have you used Waze? The popular smartphone app hopes to help slash car accidents as well as traffic.
If you’ve taken a road trip in the past few years, you are probably familiar with the smartphone navigational app Waze. Waze is quickly replacing dashboard-mounted GPS units as the leading navigational tool.
According to a report from Gizmodo, Waze is no longer concerned with simply getting you from point A to point B; the app’s developers are now making an effort to ensure you reach your destination in the safest way possible. The application will now direct users through alternate routes avoiding dangerous intersections.
The company hopes to roll out the new “difficult intersections” routing feature to drivers in Los Angeles, where difficult intersections pose a significant problem. Most notably, the app seeks to find alternate routes for users to avoid dangerous left turns that face oncoming traffic with no signals to guide their way. Waze’s alternate routes may add a few minutes to a trip, but many drivers would surely prefer a safer, more consistent route than to risk getting caught up in an unprotected left turn.
The new setting launched in Los Angeles last Friday, and so far users are happy with the results. LA drivers use the app to navigate the city at a rate of about 10 percent, and in the push to acquire more and more users, the added safety feature could be the deciding factor for drivers in the market for a navigational app.
LA city planners worked with Waze developers to help identify difficult intersections around town. According to LA Chief Technology Officer Peter Marx, “We provided the locations of signalized intersections to Waze, as we would to any other traffic app, because we want to use every tool to relieve congestion and stress for those driving around the city.”
LA is spearheading an initiative called Vision Zero, which hopes to eliminate deaths from traffic accidents. According to LADOT general manager Seleta Reynolds, “Vision Zero demands creativity in all our approaches to traffic safety, and technology plays an ever-increasing role in how people chose to get around. This feature will help guide Angelenos to safer, less stressful routes.”
Planners are hopeful that easing congestion in “difficult intersections” will have a ripple effect throughout traffic as a whole, making drivers calmer, safer, and thus leading them to make smarter choices on the road.
The majority of traffic accidents in Los Angeles occur as drivers make left turns through crowded intersections. These accidents are particularly dangerous to pedestrians and bikers, resulting in about 12 percent of fatalities on the road. By contrast, people running red lights account for 5.2 percent of serious traffic accidents, and speeding accounts for 10.8 percent.
By discouraging drivers from taking routes with congested and often chaotic intersections, Waze hopes to create a new climate of safe driving practices with people making smarter choices on the road. If the LA program is a success, you can expect to see the new feature rolling out in a city near you soon.
A blog post from Waze describing the changes made to LA directions can be found here.