Quick confession: I am somewhat of a leadfoot. Nothing reckless, mind you: I’m typically a 5-10 mph over the limit guy. But that said, you can’t be too careful. As a long-time user of peer-to-peer traffic app Waze (at least seven or eight years), I just came back from a road trip, and am a little disappointed in what has become of it. But first, a little background.
Peer-to-peer police spotting was actually a thing all the way back in the ’70, in the form of CB radios, popularized by Burt Reynolds in his 1977 magnum opus Smokey and the Bandit. My dad drove a lot of miles when I was little, and I can remember him receiving (and contributing) many a “Smokey Report” on channel 19. Sometimes he’d even let me pick up the mic and make the report myself (I’m everyone was confused by a 9-year old filing a Smokey Report).
At some point, the CB radio fad died out, and it became mostly a means for truck drivers to solicit prostitutes and drugs. I remember my Dad going through a series of radar detectors, from cheap boxy Fuzzbusters to more sophisticated units like the Cincinnati Microwave Escort. I carried on this tradition, and above is a picture of my setup from the early ’90s (a Valentine One radar/laser detector).
I first discovered Waze around 2012, and have been a dedicated Wazer ever since. When it first launched, everything was great. Many of the users were professional drivers and understood the nuances of the program: For example, the difference between posting a sighting on the same side of the road (which alerts people behind you), versus one on the opposite side of the road (which alerts people coming in the opposite direction).
Unfortunately, as word spread, the signal to noise ratio of Waze has steadily declined. Take a look at the screenshot above, from the same trip. Do we really need four different people reporting the same hazard? This happens all too frequently now: Four or five people reporting the same thing. This makes it hard to use the “Not There” function when Buford T. Justice has moved on, as you can only do it for a single report at a time. In the above example, it would require four different people reporting “Not There” for the hazard alert to completely disappear.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we can blame all the issues with Waze on newbie users. I suspect Police are getting wise to Waze, and as a consequence are moving around a lot more, only staying fixed for a few minutes at a time. I suspect this is what is happening in the screenshot above, which multiple sightings within a mile or so of each other. And just like the police monitored CB channel 19 back in the day, they might even be on Waze today, creating phantom alerts.
Problems aside, I will still continue to use Waze. Even though it has become somewhat less useful, it is still useful. No better alternatives have come up, at least to my knowledge.
So what think you, fellow readers? What has your experience been with Waze? Is there an organized plot to bring it down, or is it just collapsing under the weight of its userbase? Is there anything better I should be using? Anyone with any cop friends that can clue me in?