Transportation agencies to use data from Waze to monitor winter road conditions

Transportation agencies across the United States will have access to reports from Wazers and be able to use the data to identify unplowed roads and more quickly and efficiently deploy crews to clear snow

Transportation agencies to use data from Waze to monitor winter road conditions
Transportation agencies to use data from Waze to monitor winter road conditions

Transportation agencies to use data from Waze to monitor winter road conditions

Waze has added a new feature to its popular navigation app that allows users to report and be notified of real-time winter road conditions, including snow and icy and unplowed streets. The feature is touted as a tool to help commuters safely navigate winter’s hazardous conditions. It also is expected to aid local governments in improving their storm response.

Transportation agencies across the United States will have access to reports from Wazers and be able to use the data to identify unplowed roads and more quickly and efficiently deploy crews to clear snow. “Our partners can use this kind of information to help them improve their operations,” said Dani Simons, who leads public-sector partnerships at Waze. “It will give them a clear view into what roads have and haven't been plowed.”

While some cities run snow removal operations in-house and have technology to track where crews are plowing, those that depend on contractors could benefit from the crowdsourced app’s insight into real-time road conditions.

Waze developed the Unplowed Road feature in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Transportation. In preparation for winter, VDOT officials this summer asked Waze if there was a way to report unplowed roads and use the crowdsourced data to aid the state’s winter operations.

VDOT plans to monitor the real-time reports on road conditions this winter and determine how best to incorporate the Waze data into future operations, Cary said. The feature could help the state rethink its response resources next year. Virginia sets aside $205 million for winter weather-related expenses, and has more than 2,500 VDOT crew members and additional contractors handy for snow removal statewide. During a busy season, they handle nearly 700,000 tons of salt and nearly 2.4 million gallons of liquid calcium chloride and salt brine.

The data is free to about 1,300 government agencies that are part of the Waze for Cities Data program, Simons said. She said the work with VDOT exemplifies “what can be accomplished when we collaborate with public-sector partners to meet community needs.”

The snow warning feature is live in the more than 185 countries where the app operates, promising to come in handy for millions of Waze users in areas with harsh winter weather. The feature is silenced in areas with no inclement winter weather. Users can report, in real time, icy and unplowed streets they encounter in their travels, and the app keeps them informed when they are approaching a road that has already been identified by other drivers as unplowed.

The Unplowed Road feature is the latest road hazard added to the Waze app, a Google company. Users report and are alerted of other issues on their routes, including potholes, water on roadways, crashes and vehicles on shoulders. Wazers globally make more than 60 million reports every month, according to Waze.

“This partnership allows us to share road closure and detour information on the Waze platform instantly, arming our customers with the information they need when planning a trip on our roadways,” said Greg Slater, the former SHA administrator who was recently named state transportation secretary.

Waze expects many agencies, including those in the District and Maryland, to join in using the winter weather feature.