09
Jun
unnamed

If you haven't been following the broader tech news lately, GPS navigation provider Waze has been the corporate equivalent of a desperate college freshman, trying to find a match before the end of the first semester. The scuttlebutt is that both Apple and Facebook have shown interest in acquiring the Israel-based company within the last year. Now two credible sources, Israeli business websites Globes and Calcalist, report that Google has swooped in and agreed to purchase the company for a cool $1.3 billion.

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What's so great about Waze? Its mapping system incorporates data submitted by tens of millions of users, whose smartphones collaborate to make the GPS service more accurate and flexible. Waze's system can dynamically account for shifting traffic (some users would say it's even better than Google Maps at this) and automatically re-route drivers as the conditions change ahead. Individual users can submit information such as the specific locations of crashes or speed traps, or even the best place to find cheap gas. A social element allows users to see their Facebook friends as they drive. Waze has free apps for both iOS and Android, where it's been downloaded more than 10 million times.

According to the sources the deal is not quite finalized yet, but a public announcement should be coming soon. Globes reports that as a condition of the acquisition, the Waze team will be allowed to remain in Israel (either at their own location or working out of Google's offices in Tel Aviv and Haifa), something that neither Apple nor Facebook could offer. Assuming that the deal does go through, you can expect some of Waze's social and live mapping functions to eventually appear in Google Maps Navigation.

Source: Globes, Calcalist

Via Engadget

Update: Bloomberg says the buying price is "just" 1.1 billion.

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • hyperbolic

    Nice exit.

  • http://www.anivision.org/ Christopher Bailey (Xcom923)

    This is amazing news. I hope to see this in google maps ASAP

    • Nevi_me

      Would take time. Location data is difficult to manage when you use two different mapping sources. For example. [26.4, 28.5] might be located on a corner in OSM, but might be far away (like 20 meters at worst) from the same corner in Google Maps. Things like that make it not so easy to just pull the plug on Waze's map sources and switch to Google tiles. We'd end up walking on water like what Apple did.

      The main thing I hope to see is Google finding a way of bringing the crowdsourced data (especially traffic) from Waze to Google Maps. That'll benefit mainly Google Now. Instead of the thing telling me to leave in 15 minutes for a meeting, it'll say 40 minutes so I don't arrive late. Traffic's bad where I come from :(

      • http://www.anivision.org/ Christopher Bailey (Xcom923)

        Generally speaking the reliability of waze is a far cry away from Google Maps. I don't see google using any of waze's map data but I do see them taking in their crowd sourcing abilities (traffic especially) like you're saying. But that could probably be integrated pretty quickly. If this goes through though I image we probably won't hear anything till next years IO

  • Nevi_me

    Before people complain about Google potentially shutting down Waze:

    Waze is fantastic, it's bloody accurate with ETAs and has saved me lots in potential speeding tickets. Their traffic info is about many times better than Google's. Although word on the street's that Google's blowing the cash to spite Facebook, there are benefits in owning Waze (if rumour is true).

    1. Improved traffic information. Google's traffic layers aren't in so many countries, and very few (if not one) in Africa. The reason's because that they don't have enough devices collecting the data. In South Africa, only four cities have traffic info.
    Why is traffic info relevant? Google Now uses traffic conditions to tell us how long it'll take to get home. Imagine that being accurate to the minute or two ...

    2. Apple started out using some of Waze's traffic info, dunno if they still do. I still think that Apple should have bid $2 billion for Waze. It's worth two and a half Instagrams IMHO. Location data is becoming king these days. Even if you don't get to monetise, you still gather valuable (hopefully anonymous) data, unless the US Gov pulls a PRISM on you.

    3. Waze won't go anywhere soon (like the next 4 years). It makes more sense for Google to keep it alive, or to 'rebuild' Google Navigation on top of Waze, minus the crowdsourced maps maybe. It doesn't make sense to Sparrow it because it is more useful as a separate app. Something like Snapseed or Zagat.

    I absolutely enjoy using Waze, and if rumour's true, it's good for the team, and hopefully we see some great improvement over time.

    • Booyabobby

      Well said.

    • Wyatt Neal

      You're also forgetting the part that Waze has recently picked up that Google is all about: Advertising.

      Advertising on where you're going for food, or what you'll be driving by that google knows you habitually visit are all tiny bits to the big data puzzle that Google works to solve every day to make more money off of advertisers (probably a good idea as to why Waze put in add supported information into their tool recently). Once you add this into your equation, you're giving Google a ton of amazing data like "how many people drive by your place and stop in" or the ability to advertise your specials on a given route. Personally, I think this is a great thing for Waze and I'm happy to see where Google starts to pull in pieces of the product.

      • http://GPlus.to/Abhisshack Abhisshack

        so are you interested to pay a monthly fee (such as 10 USD or more for example) to use Ad free New Waze instead of a free rider leech.

        • MICHAEL CARACAPPA JR

          absolutely not, if google is making money off the advertisers, and they are making money when I visit their stores, I better not be paying for other companies to make money off me. in fact, you could think of it in the terms that we, the consumer, are paying with our location data. I allow google to track me so that they could charge companies to advertise to me using the data that I have given them for free. ie. my interests, and location.

          • http://GPlus.to/Abhisshack Abhisshack

            so does me , totally agree with you @michaelcaracappajr:disqus but my question is not towards you , but for the poor free rider leech beggars who has problems with both those beggars want any products for free forever and does not want any ads either . thats not gonna happend, you and me either need to pay monthly fee or getting ads so that dev , creators or the company can earn money and pay their bills.

    • http://GPlus.to/Abhisshack Abhisshack

      very insightful @Nevi_me:disqus

  • arjunamin

    What purpose does buying Waze serve Google? I mean they already have Google Maps, which is already a fantastic navigation service.

    I have used Waze in the past, but I honestly prefer Google Maps to it. I just don't know how they justify paying 1.3 billion for something that they already own and do a better job at it in the first place. I can't image 'crowd based gps' patents are worth that much?

    • http://www.ronakg.com/ Ronak Gandhi

      Then you haven't really used Waze.

      • Nevi_me

        This. Waze, even without the reporting functionality, still beats Google Maps flat out when it comes to traffic algorithms/estimates. When Waze says I'll arrive in 30 minutes, I trust it. Even Chuck Norris listens to the Waze voice

      • arjunamin

        Could you possibly even list 5 things that Waze does better than Google Maps? In my own experience, Google Maps manages to find better routes and has more up to date maps than Waze does.

        • Nevi_me

          1. Traffic/Accident/Cops hiding in bush alerts
          2. Remembers my favourite routes (e.g. every Sunday evening I drive to church. when I switch Waze on, it automatically starts routing to my destination)
          3. It's way more accurate in ETAs, mainly because of 1 above
          4. The not-so-recent Facebook integration helps me track to see how far friends are from common destination.
          5. The TTS voice is better/sexier lol
          6. It's 'social' like Foursquare to an extent. i.e. I get points for activity. I know that points are a gimmick, but from a behavioural view, it's good because it encourages people to use the app, which means better info for all.
          7. In the US, lists gas/petrol prices, which helps users find cheap fuel.
          8. Easier to save locations on map, like a proper navigation app/device.

          In summary, it's got useful features that Google Maps don't have, along with random things like being able to tweet traffic reports, check in to Foursquare etc. These aren't that useful, but the core are the 8 that I mentioned above.

          • andy_o

            I do use Waze as I was saying in the other thread. I drive the exact same route between 3 points every day, and it's not that clear-cut that Waze is so much better as you guys are making it out to be. I'll take your points one by one.

            1. These reports are not very reliable. Whenever I've found cop alerts the vast majority of the time they've already gone away. The only alert that has worked with any consistency for me in the LA area (presumably with more than enough crowdsourcing data) is vehicles stopped on shoulders. You can get lots of false positives, and we only tend to remember the hits and forget the misses.

            2. Google Now/maps does this, I just swipe up and it has the map card ready for me for work/home/the park, at the different times of day.

            3. Again, this is very disputable. Google Maps has been as consistent or more to me.

            4. The ability to see where your friends are is great, I'll give you that.

            5. You're reaching here. But in seriousness, Google's voice is much clearer. It's as if the Waze voice is digitized at a very low sampling frequency. This is especially noticeable on car speakers.

            6. That might or might not be useful to some or many.

            7. Ditto #6. It's not useful for me. Most people have their own preferred gas stations, and in most places the prices don't vary so much as to rationally warrant the time for price hunting.

            8. I have not found that to be the case. I just open the navigation app and there are my most frequent destinations.

            To add, I like Waze's ability to just run without navigating, functioning as just a real-time map, and the display of current speed.

            The one thing that bothers me the most that Waze doesn't have, inexplicably, is that it doesn't tell you the full address where you've arrived when you do, it only tells you the street name. You're supposed to remember the number of the house or dig it from history. Google, of course, shows you the street view of it in addition to the full address which is pretty much perfect.

          • Steve Freeman

            For #1, I would imagine it depends on the area. In LA (which it sounds like you live in), since there's a lot more road traffic than in most other parts of the country (or at least highway traffic), cops may only sit at a speed trap area for a couple minutes before tagging someone and zooming away. Other parts of the country may be different.

            For the rest, I haven't used Waze in a couple years, but I liked it. However, since I don't need mapping software to get to work, and my commute is pretty short to start with (and alternate routes usually take twice as long anyway), I didn't use it for that long before removing it.

          • http://jusuchin85.tumblr.com/ jusuchin85

            True to that, mate. All the points you mentioned is relatively true to how better Google Maps really is, when compared to Waze. However, there is one point that you and @Nevi_me forgot to mention: the availability of Google Maps Navigation on certain areas to provide turn-by-turn navigation.

            I've used Navigation when I was in Sydney recently, and it definitely beats Waze hands down when it comes to accuracy. But, back in Malaysia, Navigation is yet to be available, so most of us (myself included) uses Waze to replace it. Nevertheless, it does help me in my morning commute to work.

            So, how I see Google would benefit this would be to have a crowd sourcing mechanism to allow users to report on traffic conditions, speed traps, road blocks etc on countries which Navigation is not available for them.

            Also, route updates has been relatively slow in Google Maps. An example of this would be the following example.

            This is Google Maps:
            http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/6614/screenshot2013061009582.png

            And this is Waze:
            http://img594.imageshack.us/img594/6880/screenshot2013061010000.png

            This are screenshots of the crossroad I take every morning on my commute to work. Note that the roundabout is no longer there; it has been replaced with a crossroad-junction. With the ability to crowd-source information, the map can be updated frequently and quickly. On the other hand, Google Maps has yet to receive this update. Furthermore, Google Map Maker is still not available to Malaysia at this point.

            Hence, these are the two points I feel where Google can greatly benefit the acquisition of Waze. :)

          • tallmofo

            Also,if you are stuck in traffic..you can message one of the users that reported about the congestion, and that user can comment as to what incident has happened and in what lane. Waze has been clutch on the NJ Turnpike

    • Nevi_me

      Which country do you live in? :)

    • Don Gemus

      This is way simpler than anyone is thinking. Google has the only accurate maps. They are buying waze to keep it that way. Period.

  • Nir Galon

    Wow! The company has raised "only" 76 million so far (30 million dollars was raised last year and a half), so it's really nice exit to the 4 founders.

    Israelis startups prefer not to sell if they think the company will be closed, rumors say that the in the contract say that the development center will remain open (and in Israel) for another three years.

    I don't think Waze worth 1.3B dollar, i really think google will buy them to block other companies that are willing to buy them (such as Facebook), and leave them outside the maps territory.

    And I don't believe anything until google approve it , many times lately the Israeli media reported on the sale of Waze (I am Israeli)..

  • Burnerman_X

    Hell no... goodbye Waze.
    It's obvious, Google will include Waze's crowdsourcing to Google Maps and social interactions via Google+ and the app will be killed.

    Dark.

  • gheedsgreed

    Waze's maps and navigation were always second to Google. I've used both over the years and only Waze has led me wrong on a few rare occasions. Waze's social features are also pretty stupid if you think about it. Do you really want people to be checking on their friends and thumbing up other drivers while operating a vehicle? Waze's value features are it's real time traffic and road conditions, with the ability to report accidents and construction. If Google can integrate those it will be great. Google also doesn't act well as a passive driving GPS; if you want to use it you have to manually tilt the map and double tap the location button to get your compass heading. Google should add a driving mode.

  • Morten Ulveseth

    What Google Maps need is proper offline navigation. Will that ever happen?
    -Europan

  • Danny Corker

    Living in the UK I can safely say Waze has far better traffic info than Google maps. If I'm in a hurry to get somewhere I use Waze, if not I use Google as I prefer the interface. If Google nav gets Waze traffic info for the big summer update that would be perfect!

  • Seth Williams

    Whenever Google acquires something, there is always a possibility that something big might be in store for us. Can't wait to see how this acquisition will be panned out.

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