Raanana, Israel. — Startup Waze is attempting to go where Dash Navigation failed, releasing as early as June an iPhone, Android and Windows Mobile application that lets users create traffic reports
The Israeli-based company just launched a test trial in San Francisco that is expected to expand, possibly in two weeks to Chicago and Boston, and then go nationwide, perhaps by the end of June.
The software collects the road speed and location of its users as they drive, anonymously compiling traffic reports that are updated and broadcast to other users every one or two minutes. The application will not provide turn-by-turn directions initially, but is more of a “commuter” app, for getting to work or another destination by the quickest route.
Particularly unique is that the app is free and requires no monthly service charges. At launch, users will simply see a basic map (derived from U.S. census data), but once they begin driving, the map will begin updating and traffic data will be compiled.
Waze has already launched in Israel, where the application has been downloaded by 80,000 users and it now reports traffic covering 90 percent of the country. It also claims that the estimated times of arrival it produces are 85 percent accurate.
CEO Noam Bardin acknowledges users must accept a window of time when the maps and traffic reports are sparse. “In the beginning it will be in building mode, but the more they join in, the more they will get out of it … Twitter in the beginning had two or three people there to write to.”
The Waze app is expected to be available on the Android Market first followed by the Apple App Store. It will also be available for Windows Mobile devices and eventually for RIM and Blackberry devices.
When usage builds to a critical level, the software will also deliver turn by turn directions, said Bardin, who hopes to attract tens of thousands of users.
Waze said it will generate a return on its investment as the resulting map and traffic info might be purchased by Fleet managers or departments of transportation and other enterprises.
Dash Navigation offered a personal navigation device (PND) last year that also compiled traffic reports from its users, but that product, at $299 plus service charges, failed to gain a broad following and was pulled from the market after nine months.
Waze notes that its product differs from Dash’s in that it is software that is free and without service fees.