Waze Navigation App Adds Alternate Routes in Los Angeles
An update to Google’s Waze navigation app is making some of the worst areas to drive in Los Angeles a little more bearable by steering users away from problem intersections. Once the feature, dubbed Difficult Intersections, is enabled and the user sets his route, Waze will automatically provide an alternate route to keep the driver away from trouble intersections.
The application will even ensure the alternate route is the most sensible one so that it doesn't add too much time and distance to the trip. Waze will not recommend detours that add more than a certain maximum amount time to the trip, instead defaulting to the problem intersection.
The Difficult Intersections feature was designed with the help of a Los Angeles map editor and company developers. Team members compared lists of what they thought to be the most difficult intersections and provided alternate solutions. The city provided the locations of signalized intersections to Waze, something it’s also done for developers of other traffic apps in an effort to relieve traffic congestion.
The goal of the feature is to reduce the number of problem intersections, not completely eliminate them, according to an announcement on Waze’s blog. The Difficult Intersections setting is automatically enabled for Los Angeles-area drivers. Waze users who prefer to take their chances can disable the feature in the app’s settings. The update also removes Waze’s previous tendency to suggest left turns at intersections without left turn arrows on its stoplights.
Helping develop the new Waze feature was a way for the City of Los Angeles to strengthen and promote its Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic deaths. Los Angeles also recently redesigned many of its crosswalks to stop traffic in all directions to let cars turn left. The largest percentage of traffic collisions that kill or seriously injure pedestrians and bikers on Los Angeles streets, about 12 percent, result from left turns.
Waze plans to do introduce a similar feature for many cities where the app is available, with New Orleans scheduled to be the next city whose drivers can use the Difficult Intersections feature.
Weighing Different Routes
Derek Viita, a senior user experience analyst with Strategy Analytics, told us the update was "extremely compelling." He added that it illustrates how an accurate route drawn up by a navigation app isn’t always the most comfortable route.
"Asking a driver to execute a left-hand turn from a secondary road onto a six-lane thoroughfare during rush hour might be the fastest route, but certainly wouldn’t be the most comfortable," Viita said. "And if the system does things like this repeatedly, the user is less likely to trust it and more likely to stop using it."
Waze, formerly called Freemap, was developed in Israel by a startup company and acquired by Google in 2013. The program runs on smartphones and tablets with display screens that provide turn-by-turn information and user-submitted travel times and route details over mobile networks.
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