The world's largest community-based traffic and navigation app, Waze, shares the map of its success.

Working from the tagline, "Waze. Outsmarting Traffic, Together", the app has developed into a tool for commuters that's almost as ubiquitous as the mobile device on which it runs.

"We like to think of ourselves more as a co-pilot for all things navigation," Meghan Kelleher, a Waze Communications Manager, recently summarized for Road Scholar. "We've become one of the most comprehensive driving companions in the marketplace today."

With the contributions from more than 50 million active monthly users worldwide who share real-time information about their commutes, the application cultivates a broad spectrum of information all in one place, for free.

Kelleher illustrated how the app's network of content is supplied from its users.

"The driving community can either actively or passively contribute the data," she described. "From an active perspective, you can report in real time what is happening around you. You can report that there's an accident ahead or that you're hitting traffic. You can also passively contribute by having the app open and not reporting, but we're able to get some GPS information from you so that we can see when you're slowing down."

Kelleher added that active contributors have the ability to add a photo snapshot or other supporting information to your report.

"You can also put into text comments about what you're seeing so, again, you can give more detail to the community."

There's even a helpful--if not conceptually simple--layer of verification the app employs for users' reports.

"If you've ever driven with our app open, you might get an alert that pops up that says that there's a car parked on the side of the road a quarter-mile ahead," Kelleher illustrated. "And on that, there is a thumbs-up, which means that you're thanking, or you agree, that that has actually happened on the road. But it's also a way to indicate to us that that is a valid alert."

Screenshot for an alert detailing an upcoming road hazard (Courtesy/Waze)

The traffic-related content isn't all that receives constant vetting within the application, Kelleher explained.

"Our maps themselves are actually built by more than 360,000 active volunteer map editors."

The app, as a result of the wealth of firsthand data, can offer a variety of additional features that compartmentalizes a commuter's trip to one interface. Information such as traffic re-routes, gas price alerts, and--at the bottom of the screen--what's conveniently known as an E.T.A panel.

"It organizes everything you need as a driver in one place. You can view reports, you can check alternative routes, you can even add a stop on the way," Kelleher promoted. "And you can instantaneously send your E.T.A. to your friends or family within the app or via text and email. So it eliminates the extraneous 'Where are you?' or 'What time are you going to get here?' text. We will give them the updates based upon what we're seeing from traffic conditions."

A screenshot of the Share Drive feature in Waze's E.T.A. panel (Courtesy/Waze)

Acquired by Google in 2013--and subsequently embedded in the Google Maps platform--the Waze app is committed to driver safety. Kelleher described a couple of the safety measures.

"We do have a voice-controlled, hands-free option for the app for drivers, and we have an alert that will pop up that will actually block you while you're driving. But if you're a passenger, you can go ahead and touch the screen and give all of those details; take pictures, put comments, like other people's (content). You can be a little more active in that front seat role."

Finally, as the app continually evolves, developers are finding other ways to integrate information. With a program called Connected Citizens, Waze offers a free, two-way data share that gives municipal leaders the ability to get real-time looks at road activity.

"Through this, we receive some of (the city's) data--mostly their road closures and incident reports and we, in return, give our free, anonymous public real-time feed back on the same information. So we can help the city learn more about what's happening on their roads and then, in return, we can help Wazers know what's happening as well."

It's literally "the sharing economy" exemplified.


Contact Andrew Sgroi with Road Scholar story ideas to or follow him on Twitter at @Cuse92.