Ever since Google acquired the wildly popular, community-powered navigation app Waze for a cool $1.2 billion in 2013, there’s been chatter that the tech behemoth would one day pull the plug on the plucky GPS tool with over 100 million active monthly users.
Those fears can be definitively put to rest. Today Waze rolled out a slew of cool new features that make the app even more indispensable, especially during the pandemic. The changes focus on two key moments in your day: before you leave the house and while you’re on the road.
How often have you mentally calculated when you need to leave your home to get somewhere at a particular time? If you let Waze know about a planned drive, you’ll get real-time information that will help you avoid common problems like traffic or road work. Based on trips you’ve taken in the past, a new feature called “trip suggestions” offers up personalized recommendations with a visual overview of everything you need to know before grabbing your keys. You’ll get an estimate for how long the trip will take and the level of traffic you can expect along the way. This lets you anticipate what’s happening on the roads and adjust your schedule or route if needed.
That before-you-go effort will be further aided by “traffic notification angels” that will tell you if traffic is starting to build up. You’ll get a notification if you’re at risk of being late so you can head out early.
Waze has improved its ETA calculations in less-trafficked areas, which has been especially important during the pandemic because it’s become harder to predict the changing flow of traffic patterns.
Once you’re on your way, a new lane guidance feature will give you an early heads up on which lane to get in when merging on to or exiting from the highway.
If you speak a language other than English, you’ll appreciate the new Google Assistant integration. French, Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Wazers can now interact with the app hands-free by using only their voices. This follows up on the initial integration of Google Assistant for English-speaking users.
Location badges now appear under the search bar to help surface locations offering drive-through or curbside pickup even faster. Besides being able to find the nearest gas station or parking lot along your route, you can also search for locations that support social distancing, too. For example, you’ll find out which drive-through coffee shops along your route offer contactless payments.
If you like to view your upcoming journey on the Live Map on a desktop or laptop computer using real-time data, you will now be able to save your itinerary directly to your Waze app on their Android or iOS device with a single click. This provides a more seamless experience across all platforms, and simplifies the process of planning a drive by finding the best route and time to leave, even befroe getting into the car.
Want to lessen your carbon footprint? Before the pandemic, Waze’s carpool feature had been hitting one million monthly users. Now the feature has gotten even better, thanks to a new feature called “Carpool Instant Book” that matches drivers and riders more quickly, in just one step. Whenever you turn on this feature, you’ll be able to automatically accept requests without spending time in the app. Thanks to real-time rides, Waze drivers are notified at the start of the drive about those looking for a ride on their route.
Meanwhile, riders who select “Instant Book” get more certainty with an instant confirmation when requesting a ride. Riders now get results that include major hubs so you can maximize the number of Waze carpool drivers passing by. You might be able to find a ride right from your house, but you’ll be able to see if there’s a bus stop, train station or another hub nearby where you’ll have a better chance of picking up a ride.