Google's Waze navigation app uses crowd-sourced data to let drivers know where the traffic jams are, where construction is slowing things down, the roads to avoid due to accidents, and the spots where the cops are hiding. Now, the U.S. Transportation Department is getting its hands on data compiled by Waze users and is comparing it with information about crashes that have been documented by the Maryland State Police.
The feds want to match up the Waze data with the official data from the Maryland State Police to see how often Waze users reported an accident when one actually took place. And using the data provided by Waze will allowed the feds to develop models that accurately estimate the number of crashes that will occur on certain roads. The best results come from heavily traveled thoroughfares with many Waze users sharing their latest experiences on that stretch of asphalt.
The government says that its goal is to obtain enough data that will allow researchers to take all of the factors that create a dangerous environment on a road, such as human behavior, weather, vehicle type, road conditions to "forecast risk at a given place and time." Knowing in advance where and when major accidents should occur will allow the feds and states to have "public safety resources" already on stand-by near these locations, ready to act.
Waze data has already been used to reveal the worst red-light traffic jams in Boston's Seaport District, The information helped officials there reset traffic light cycles to keep motorists moving smoothly. Waze said that the changes improved congestion in the area by 20%. Hopefully, data from the navigation app will help cut down on the number of fatalities on the roads. Last year, 37,000 people lost their lives on U.S. roads.
If the test in Maryland proves successful, the DOT plans on expanding the program nationwide.