But Waze is driven, so to speak, by a fundamentally different and wildly successful technology. Unlike traditional mapping programs, Waze relies primarily on crowdsourcing to generate real-time data on traffic jams, road conditions and driving hazards.
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Every Waze user contributes road and traffic data passively, simply by having the app active on their phone - the system logs speed and location as you drive. But users are also encouraged to actively contribute information on specific road conditions. The system uses videogame-style elements to reward drivers for reporting a location-specific road hazard, traffic jam or fender-bender.
The more Waze users that are active in a given area, the more effective the system. And there are a lot of Waze users - millions in the U.S. alone. The Waze system collates massive amounts of information from users over its network, in real time, and while the technology itself is rather complex, the upshot is simple: You can get remarkably accurate and up-to-the-minute information on road conditions - on your phone, as you're driving, 24-7.