The Useless Waze Feature I Always Disable on My Devices

Wazers on the map on CarPlay 7 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
The Waze interfaceThe Waze interfaceThe Waze interfaceThe Waze interfaceThe Waze interfaceThe Waze interface
Before you start reading this piece, let me tell you that I'm a daily Waze user. I run the app almost every time I get behind the wheel, as it helps me deal with heavy traffic and find a faster way to my destinations.
I find Waze incredibly helpful for making every trip more predictable. I can get an ETA to the destination, see where traffic jams happen, and always get the fastest route.

Waze is a fantastic app, and the crowdsourcing engine that allows users to report hazards makes it a must-have piece of software for every modern driver. While Google Maps also helps make navigation more straightforward, the incident reporting component makes every second behind the wheel more predictable, letting you know what happens on the road ahead.

The gigantic community powering Waze is its heart and soul, and the app wouldn't exist without it.

And Waze tries to show everybody how large its user base is, even if this idea doesn't make any sense.

The Waze interface
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
If you're new to this app, you probably spend a lot of time looking at the map. That's a big no-no, as drivers should keep their eyes on the road every second their car is in motion. However, Waze's interface isn't the cleanest, and some elements make no sense, only making the map more cluttered.

I can't stress enough how important it is for a navigation app to let you read the essential information with a glance at the screen. Every little UI element added to the screen could make it more complicated, ruining an approach that should otherwise be as simple as possible.

A feature that doesn't make sense and which I always disable on all my devices is the option to show other Wazers on the map. While I find it hard to understand why it's there, the option to see other users by viewing their "mood" on the map was fun at first when the map was much simpler. The addition of more map elements, which contributed to a more cluttered interface, made the Wazers icons almost useless, turning it into a feature that should no longer be there.

The Waze interface
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
For context, Wazers displayed on the map aren't even rendered in real-time. Even if you see another Wazer on the map next to your location, it doesn't mean someone in the car next to you runs Waze. The application doesn't show real-time Wazer location information, so the displayed mood belongs to a user who was at the marked location at one point in the last 10 minutes.

The displayed moods don't have any real benefit and only make some reports more difficult to observe. For example, at one point today, Waze displayed no less than eight separate moods on the map. I almost missed a traffic jam icon because I had so many moods on the screen. They use different colors and icons, so it's easy to miss information that is important for your trip.

The option to show other Wazers on the map (you can find it in Settings > Map display > Show Wazers) was most likely added as part of the app's gamification system. Waze encourages users to submit reports by giving them points for their contributions. The more points you earn, the more new moods and levels you unlock. Eventually, you get more moods, so you can change how others see you on the map.

The Waze interface
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
While I understand that an application like Waze needs a way to encourage users to contribute with traffic reports, the point rewarding system can hardly be considered an incentive to help others with reports. As you can see in these screenshots, I sent thousands of reports and eventually unlocked most Wazer levels, but besides the different moods, I didn't get much else. It's a good idea implemented poorly, as the Google-owned company must find better rewards to convince users to contribute with traffic data.

The only reason I send traffic reports in Waze today is because I understand it's the only way the app works correctly. Without reports sent by me and the rest of the community, Waze would become a useless app, so it's essential for everyone running it to contribute with as much data as possible.

However, I hardly see a reason to keep other Wazers on the map when I only want turn-by-turn navigation and traffic information. The CarPlay experience is even more limited, as you can't interact with other Wazers, so their icons only eat up valuable space on the screen without a real benefit.

The Waze interface
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Otherwise, I applaud Waze for simplifying the reporting experience. Using the app is simpler now, especially when driving on highways, with the most common reports now at a one-tap distance. For example, one of the most common reports in Waze, when I drive on a highway, is the "vehicle stopped on should," and after the update, I only need two taps on CarPlay to send this report.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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