NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Waze, the smartphone navigation app used by more than 50 million drivers, is considering some new features in the name of safety.
In Brazil, an elderly woman was murdered after she entered an incorrect address and was routed into a neighborhood known for gang violence. The company is now working on what could be a controversial next step, a new feature in that country to alert drivers about routes through high crime areas, CBS2’s Kris Van Cleave reported.
“We’re working with the government, we’re working with local community groups who are able to identify which neighborhoods have safety issues,” Waze’s Julie Mossler said.
Waze said the crime feature would use data verified by a third party and could also be supported by data the app gathers from users, including reports of accidents, incidents and police presence, CBS2 reported.
But Ezekiel Edwards, from the American Civil Liberties Union, said “Crime data is notoriously unreliable.”
“People would be relying on flawed data to make decisions on where to drive and where not to drive,” he added.
The crime feature could be ready before the Brazil Olympics, but there’s no firm timleine on when it will be rolled out, or if it would ever come to the U.S.
The Waze team is also addressing concerns over what some users call a “suicide straight,” which is when the app directs drivers across multiple lanes of heavy traffic. Another concern for some is when the app suggests a left turn through that same multi-lane traffic without a light.
But Waze’s Amber Kirby said the app may sacrifice a little time for safety.
When driving with the new feature, Van Cleave reported the app directed him to turn left on a lightly trafficked side street instead of across the much busier Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica, sending the vehicle to a stop sign and a less stressful right turn.
The feature is live in Los Angeles, coming soon to New Orleans, and could be in Boston and Washington, D.C. by the end of the year.