Waze is rolling out a host of new features from today, as the Google-owned navigation app looks to counter the pandemic-driven decrease in transport demand.
The company, which Google acquired for more than $1 billion back in 2013, made the announcements this morning during Waze On, its first ever virtual event. The announcement comes a week after news that it was cutting 5% of its workforce and shuttering several offices. According to reports, the layoffs were partially due to emptier roads, with Waze itself reporting back in April that 60% fewer miles were driven in the wake of global lockdowns.
A new “trip suggestions” feature, which starts rolling out to Waze users globally next month, will show users recommendations based on previous trips they’ve taken or locations they’ve recently visited. When they launch the app for the first time, they will be able to see a list of places they might want to revisit without having to type in the destination manually. Waze will also show an estimate for how long the trip should take based on current traffic conditions.
Also launching for Waze users globally next month are traffic notifications that automatically warn drivers how traffic is likely to affect trips to their favorite or recent destinations. This will also work with planned drives, a feature Waze launched last year that allows drivers to set alerts for one-time journeys.
Traffic notifications work when Waze detects that roads are getting busy enough to affect drive times, and drivers will see an alert pop up on their lockscreen.
In a development that has been a long time coming, Waze has for a few months been testing a new lane guidance feature in beta. The feature will let drivers know which lane they need to be in for a turn or highway exit. It’s an incredibly useful feature, one that has been available in Google Maps for a long time. Waze said it has already started rolling lane guidance out and the feature should soon be available to more users.
Waze is also adding a bunch of new features to its built-in carpool service, which is available in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, and Israel. This includes “auto approve,” which allows car owners to automatically accept ride requests without fiddling around with the app and lets riders choose “instant book” to receive an automatic confirmation that their request has been accepted.
A new “real-time rides” feature — which is launching in Israel later this month, followed by other Waze Carpool markets — will offer drivers the chance to receive notifications at the start of their drive if riders are looking to go somewhere along the driver’s route.
This feature could allow Waze Carpool to reach more users by enticing drivers who might not have been actively looking to take on passengers. Waze also partners with third-party transport apps like Moovit to let their users search for Waze drivers.
Other new features include Google Assistant support for French, Spanish, and Portuguese coming later this year. English has been supported since last year.