Steve, seems like you were really on to something with early idea for traffic and route optimization--you just needed the technology to catch up to help you enable.
On a separate note, it seems like lots of what I've been writing about lately keeps harkening back to this same theme of consumers driving more of the experience and the evolution of products, be they physical products or software. I think this example keeps to the same premise. Like it or not, the flood of technologies busting out in the consumer world--GPS tracking, social technology, mobile apps--these are all going to have big influences in the tools that engineers use on the job. Imagine taking this same concept Steve talks about and applying it to factory floor systems that can give production engineers a real-time glimpse into quality problems that they can address or redirect on the fly.There are countless ways this notion of crowdsourcing will be applied. Some will work and some won't, but there's no doubt it's coming.
Thanks for the kind words! I hope with a little map editing your neck of the woods is more easily routable in the Waze system. If you'd like any more info, feel free always to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nice story, Steve. Google is actually offering a new version of crowdsourcing that was common decades ago. Truckers often used short wave radios to broadcast information on speed traps, accidents and other road hazards to tip their fellow drivers about what's happening on the road. I don't know if truckers still do it, but it was certainly common in the 1980s.
Although I applaud this idea, isn't this article morphing the definition of 'crowdsourcing'. I had though that crowdsourcing was the cutsey label put to a development project where massive numbers of people contribute ideas toward a project. This article just describes massive data collection and this is passive, rather than active, which I *thought* was the definition of crowdsourcing.
Hi Didymus7, you are right that collecting data from people as they drive isn't crowdsourcing. I was referring to Waze accepting map editing contributions from people everywhere, each correcting their own little piece of the world.
Good comparison to the CB radio days. I remember car trips listening to the CB as dad drove. As I recall my handle was "sprite". The advantage now is that with a server there is a place to remember state, so the message doesn't get lost if there isn't a steady stream of traffic with CB radios to pass it on. I think Waze is pretty neat and I wish them success.
Thanks, Steve. Note to self: Read the whole document. I have always thought that Linux was the prototypical 'crowdsourcing' project. However, the idea of the management of companies 'embracing' crowdsourcing scares me. With Linux, the only ones contributing are those who know how to program. Which I think is essential, you don't just fling out your project to the unwashed masses. Even with Linux you get some 'programmers' that really screw things up.
The concept of using cell phone locations to provide traffic information is interesting. It seems that because of the relatively smaller number of samples that some serious programming would be needed to draw real inference from the data. As always then, the influence of the program creator is a big part of the function. But it certainly could provide a valuable service, although it may also provide information about a larger area and a lot of nonuseful data as well.
But CB radio was very good at keeping us informed back in the 1980s, when the same folks could pass information every day. I think that has changed, as a whole lot of things have changed, and seldom for the better. The good part of the CB "web" was that it was open and free, and it was not tainted by somebody needing to show a profit and ROI for investors. Nothing associated with either cell phones or internet is free, although you seldom see exactly how you pay for it or how much it costs.
William, you are correct regarding small samples. One of the neat thing about Waze is that you can enable a live display of other "Wazers" around you. There are a pretty good number here in the bay area on the major roads, and on the freeway the indications of where traffic slows down are very accurate. It's also pretty good about routing around traffic, more than once it has changed a route to an earlier exit to avoid traffic on the freeway that built up since the time I initially left.
But I live a little out in the boonies, and I can single handedly turn the country roads from green to red or yellow depending on how fast I drive. Hopefully that will change as more people use the app.
I think there are other improvements that could be done as well, like noting typical locations of speed traps and always having "yellow" warnings for them even if there haven't been any reports recently, and having "red" warnings for speed traps with recent reports.
Hi kcp, that's a valid concern. Once you set a course you don't have to touch the screen again, it automatically pans and zooms to show your next turn. If you do something that requires the keyboard Waze will notice if the car is in motion and will pop up a box that says only passengers can use the on screen keyboard. It's only a couple screen touches to report a traffic hazard if you spot one while driving. So it doesn't have to be distracting to the driver.
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