On the road

Driving, driving, driving, driving, oh right, this article: Waze and Google. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time driving long distances this week, so you’ll forgive me, I hope, for writing about driving.

Because when I spend hours on hours in the car, I often find myself running two real-time mapping programs on my phone at once: Google Maps and Waze.

Google Maps seems to be a better, faster-loading map program that shows alternate routes on long trips more quickly.

But Waze, which is actually owned by Google, has a feature I greatly appreciate: It lets other drivers warn of the locations of road hazards and police speed traps.

I'm not an especially lead-footed driver, but I'd still rather know where the cops are. It's been a very small first-world problem for me that Google didn't just combine both apps.

Last year however, Google announced the next best thing: drivers would be able to report hazards, slowdowns, and speed traps right on Google Maps.

There was only one problem.

It’s that Waze, unlike Google, has a bit of a renegede vibe.

And as a result, it’s attracted an army of rebels: 30,000 map editors, some of whom work the equivalent of a full-time job for the platform, in exchange for modest perks.

For example, they not only update speed traps; they quickly add the locations of shelters during hurricane season, and translate everything seamlessly into other languages.

The whole thing is largely a legacy of the pre-bought-out-by-Google days, reports Alyssa Newcomb of Fortune, when the company still had a "startup budget" but had to figure out how to fund the constant map updates.

Rewards include things like a biannual trip to a conference in Tel Aviv for the top 70 or so Waze editors (pre-pandemic, I assume), along with the simple satisfaction of contributing to the community and sticking it to the man.

Imagine having that kind of a group of intensely loyal and invested user base—-not just using your product, not just evangelizing it to other users—but actually volunteering their time to do the grunt work to improve it.

Who wouldn’t like that?

Actually, there is one group that doesn’t like it: cops.

“There is no moral, ethical, or legal reason to have the police locator button on the app,” the national sheriffs' association complained a few years back. “We are concerned that terrorists, organized crime groups, and gangs will find this a valuable tool to further their illegal activities."

Sorry, that ship has sailed, like the thousands of drivers slowing down to 55 just before speed traps, because they now know they’re there.

I’ve seen a heck of a lot of them over the last few days.

Hey, it’s five hours from our house in New Jersey to Grandma’s in New Hampshire. You you do what you can to keep your mind occupied.

7 other things worth your time

  • Walmart made a long-awaited announcement: Walmart+, its offering to go head-to-head with Amazon Prime has arrived. I’ll be writing about this for Inc.com today. (Walmart)

  • This was a few weeks back, but I think I missed it, and as a former member I want to note it: the U.S. Army Reserve’s new commander is Lieutenant General Jody J. Daniels, who is now the first woman to command the branch. (News 8000)

  • Hey cool, we can go to Costa Rica again. Well, at least those of us who live in 12 U.S. states. (SF Gate)

  • Airline pilots at LAX say a guy in a jetpack flew right into their midst, which seems a bit dangerous. The FBI is trying to figure out who he is. (The Drive)

  • More than two-thirds of Americans who plan to vote say they’ll either do so in-person, ahead of time, or else by mail. Only one-third say they expect to cast their ballots on election day itself. (NBC News)

  • Wow, is this the end of the Kennedy dynasty? For the first time in history, a Kennedy lost a race in Massachusetts. (Politico)

  • Oh nice, a new study says every week you spend working in front of a computer is the same as 25 minutes unprotected from the sun. It adds up, my friends. (The Guardian)

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If you want to dig into the archives, I’ve written about Google and Waze before at Inc.com. If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers. You can also just send an email to signup@understandably.com. And now, you can also get it by text at (718) 866-1753.

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