The newest phenomenon in mobile navigation is making use of crowd-sourced data, not just for improving the app but for improving traffic itself. Waze, a navigation app, and Moovit, a public transportation app, are on the forefront of this movement while a third, a cycling app called Strava, is building momentum.
Rio de Janeiro is the primary testing ground for this new system that benefits all parties involved. The navigation apps gather GPS information from its users and, after stripping the data of identifying details, shares it with the government- to give them a picture with an unprecedented level of accuracy detailing how traffic moves around the city and where there are issues or places to improve upon. In return, the government gives the apps all relevant city planning data as well as information on upcoming and current construction projects so they can reflect that information on their maps. The result is an enhanced navigation experience for the users, a competitive advantage for the developers, and better city planning data for the government.
Critics say that this technology is well on its way toward compromising privacy and infringing on users’ rights, placing much more power than necessary in the hands of the app developers and in turn the government. It is hard to say what the future will bring, but it will surely become a hotly debated topic as involved parties try to get more out of the system.
Regardless, it is showing positive results and more places are interested in getting involved in this kind of system. The State of Florida recently signed a deal with these same apps to develop a similar symbiotic relationship, in the interest of improving transportation throughout the state. There are projects underway in several other countries around the world as well.
Waze was purchased by Google for a very high price, so we can expect to see some crossover from the two tech companies that will result in even more advancements thanks to their combined data, techniques and experience in the industry. As long as people can keep getting to places easier and faster, it will be harder to convince them not to sign their privacy away without second thought, especially if they are eased into these new features gradually and immediately become reliant on them.