Why Waze is dangerous and why people will still use it anyway

Screenshot_2016-02-18-11-57-56 Screenshot_2016-02-18-11-57-21 Waze won the most votes for AUTO Connected Car News’ Tech CARS Award for best navigation or map app this year. It beat out Google maps by only a few votes. The people who use Waze love it. A friend of mine told me it saved her time commuting to work. There are some serious problems with Waze, one of which I experienced.

The Strange Ways of Waze & Contacts

On my smartphone, I had both Pasadena Parking Enforcement and the Pasadena Police non-emergency phone numbers saved as contacts. I needed to call the parking enforcement to notify them of a car that looked suspicious, like it had been stolen parked behind my house as I pulled out of an alley.

I was connected to my car’s hands-free system via Bluetooth and I couldn’t connect to the parking phone number because Waze took over the number.

Since it was a parking issue, I waited until I got home to call parking enforcement from my landline after I looked up the phone number on my computer. I forgot about the problem until I saw some kids in danger on the street when I left my alley another day.

I pushed the voice button on my steering wheel and said “Dial Pasadena Police.” The car and my smartphone couldn’t find the correct phone number.

I had to pull over to look at my phone which showed that the Waze icon had taken over the contact. When I opened the Waze app I couldn’t figure out how to tell the police about the child endangerment issue.

It was really scary. I looked at the Waze privacy policy. Waze collects phone numbers from my contacts, but it doesn’t say that it will remove police phone numbers.

Waze will collect:

periodically, all of the phone numbers which are stored on your device’s phonebook. We only collect numbersin a form which is anonymous to Waze, we will not collect names, addresses or other information from your device’s phone book. This information will be used as part of the ‘find friends’ feature to help find and create a list of other Waze users who you may know and with whom you may wish to connect:

Fortunately, for me I had memorized the police phone number and was able to dial the police by the phone number.

Later, I re-entered the Police numbers with new names that Waze wouldn’t recognize.

The fact that Waze took over two police numbers could mean that more property may be stolen, fewer parking tickets will issued, more car accidents will not be reported and more people will be injured in car accidents. Say, I was in a car accident and I injured by hands, I couldn’t input information into the Waze app, that to me is very dangerous.

It is dangerous to me to that my personal contacts that I knew were in the phone were taken over by an app, without me knowing it.

I now realize that if it was something very dangerous, I could still call 911. However, I have found that for some things with the Pasadena Police department the non-emergency number and parking enforcement are better to call for certain situations.

I also find the constant weird sounds from the app distracting. It is distracting to constantly to be asked to input data and photos. It is also distracting to take your eyes off the the road to look at the map. Anything that distracts the drivers is dangerous.

Waze Problems

Some Waze problems are manageable. For instance, it consumes a ton of battery juice and data. In a three and half hour ride to San Diego, Waze depleted all but 10% of a battery on a Samsung Galaxy S4. The app is not free because it consumes great amounts of data, very few of us have unlimited data plans any more. Users think Waze is free, but you are using a lot of data which you pay for.

Screenshot_2015-05-18-22-09-22Waze has caused problems on formerly quiet neighborhood streets. If it takes less time on a side street, Waze will route commuters through the street. When there was a pile-up on a local freeway, many drivers posted photos to Waze of burning cars while driving past them.

Strategy Analytics analyst Roger C. Lanctot wrote on LinkedIn, “The problem arises from the fact that Waze is first and foremost an advertising platform and, secondarily, has a predisposition to route users away from primary and secondary roads.”

He says that HERE, TomTom, INRIX, v-trafic and other traffic information service providers pride themselves on the accuracy of their data and carefully refine their predictive models for both consumers and enterprise users, Waze relies entirely on real-time, crowdsourced consumer inputs that emphasize what is happening in the moment.

Lanctot is concerned that states and cities are partnering with Waze, fueling real-time info-mania, while sacrificing their ability to manage the movement of people and vehicles around their states and municipalities.

The LAPD asked Waze to stop posting police alerts. When speeding cars and crooks use Waze, it helps them escape. Some users have noted that Waze routes drivers in ways they normally wouldn’t drive with many left turns. A friend of mine noted that he had to stop using Waze because it was asking for information all the time.

CNN reported that a couple followed their Waze GPS app, thinking it would lead them to a touristy avenue in Niteroi, a large city across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. Instead, it led them to another street of the same name in Niteroi in one of the city’s most notorious slum areas. The woman was shot and killed.

Why People Love Waze

People will still continue to use Waze because:

  • They think it is free, although advertisers pay for positioning on the map.
  • Commuting to work or traveling is boring, Waze seems like a fun game.
  • Any amount of time the app takes off a daily route feels like a major victory.
  • The marketing of the Waze makes it seem like people become part of community helping their fellow drivers.
  • Users like to be notified of debris in the road, police and accidents.
  • People find it fun, such as this review:

“I found myself becoming a more useful driver and tagging hazards such as road construction, cars pulled to the shoulder, ice, and a police car slowing traffic down near an accident. It has been highly satisfying to see people thumbs up my hazard reports and to see my little baby Waze profile grow into an adult Waze as I contribute to the driving community with reports. I love how even before I leave I get such a granular look at the speed of the roads near the parking structure and leading to the main highways. It has helped me become a better planner and commuter especially after I synced Waze to my Google Calendar! Thank you for making driving fun and simple and social Waze!”

Waze Problems

There are problems reported from users of the Waze app.

  • It only works with cellular data.
  • It takes over police contacts.
  • Waze routes drivers through dangerous parts of town.
  • It forgets routes it supposed to share with spouses.
  • The fastest route isn’t always accurate.
  • The “application thinks it’s smart to get off major roads to clog side streets,” noted one reviewer.
  • Waze only cares about advertising.
  • There is no option to see the whole route on the map in one click to determinate the whole trip.
  • Waze sends cars commuting through residential streets.
  • Great ideas, but the GPS is super buggy. Plus advertising while driving is a terrible idea.
  • Shows Add a Photo” as I near my location which blocks the top 1/3 of the screen.
  • “As a passenger, I’m always able to take good pics of accidents, but when I try to upload them, they never get uploaded. The accident report does show up but it never uploads the picture. After I pass the accident I can’t take the pic anymore so what’s the point of me even trying if pictures never upload?”
  • I especially tire of hearing repeated warnings of “rain ahead” when I’m already driving through rain.

On the App Store Waze warns “Continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically decrease battery life. Waze will automatically shut down if you run it in the background and haven’t driven for a while.”

Waze privacy policy states:

Waze may permit, solicit or contract certain other companies to conduct advertising campaigns on the Services.

The information and advertisements that you see when accessing the Services may be targeted on the basis of:

  • geographic or contextual information which we collect from you;
  • information received from third party partners; as well as
  • your search query history.

The Service includes an internal messaging system which provides you the ability to send and receive messages to and from other users, and to receive marketing messages from us.

We ask our readers how they feel about the ways of Waze? Please post your views in the comments below, say how you use Waze and what if any problems it caused. You can also tell us why Waze makes you happy :).



2 thoughts on “Why Waze is dangerous and why people will still use it anyway”

  1. Many of the things you site as “problems” are user error problems.
    1. Dangerous parts of town? Seriously? You don’t have to blindly follow the app. Waze will not choose a route substantially different from another GPS based tool unless you’ve told it (via settings) or the other app to do so.
    2. Only cares about advertising? I’m not sure what that assertion is based on, but I’m never bothered by ads. They have never interfered with my use of the app.
    3. There *is* an option to click so you can see the entire route on the map. (Again, user error.)
    4. The warnings for weather, police, obstructions in the road, etc, that you hear while driving can all be customized. If you don’t like the noises for prizes or the weather warnings, turn them off.
    5. All phone based GPS apps use cellular data. I use mine with my charger plugged in because I know it’s heavy on the data and the battery. If people haven’t figured out that smart phone apps use power and cost data by now… I’m not sure what will help them. Maybe a map?

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