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Google finds Waze to crowdsource best ‘Maps’ of the world

For working professionals, students, tourists or anyone who is looking to get to an address in an unfamiliar city, Google Maps is one of the first options. The access itself, courtesy Android’s widespread acceptance, makes it easy for one to choose Google Maps over some of its lesser known competitors. But even though Google Maps has become one of the most used services from the company, many complain about the routes and the inaccuracies that it has in certain cases.

Google took a key step to address these complains and augment the service, when it announced the acquisition of Israel-based traffic mapping company, Waze. The move also reiterated Google’s faith in crowd sourced information, which is otherwise not often seen in the company’s offerings.

The acquisition was closed on June 11, 2013 for a reported figure of USD 1.03 billion ending any chance of a bidding war between Google, Apple and Facebook for the service.

Google believes that its alliance with Waze would help it “outsmart traffic”. In a post on the company blog, Brian McClendon, Vice President, Geo said, “Imagine if you could see real-time traffic updates from friends and fellow travellers ahead of you showing faster routes that others are taking. To help outsmart traffic, we’re excited to announce we’ve closed the acquisition of Waze. This fast-growing community of traffic-obsessed drivers is working together to find the best routes from home to work, every day.”

Waze depends significantly on user participation and generates its maps by using the GPS to track movements of its 45 million users. The users not only discuss the best routes but also traffic bottlenecks, accidents and any other slow points. For Google Maps, this user-generated layer can make all the difference, not only in terms of direct information but also in creating a culture that relies on everyday commuters to create accurate and effective maps.

McClendon reiterated this point too and commented, “The Waze community and its dedicated team have created a great source of timely road corrections and updates. We welcome them to Google and look forward to working with them in our ongoing effort to make a comprehensive, accurate and useful map of the world.”

Needless to say that Waze sees the development as an opportunity. Addressing its users, Noam Bardin, CEO, Waze said, “Larry Page, Brian McClendon and the Google Maps teams have been following our progress closely and are excited about what we’ve accomplished. They share our vision of a global mapping service, updated in real time by local communities, and wish to help us accelerate. We are excited about the prospect of working with the Google Maps team to enhance our search capabilities and to join them in their ongoing efforts to build the best map of the world.”

The Waze product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now. With the association, Google is looking to enhance Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google’s search capabilities.