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When Traffic Apps Maps Took Over My Neighborhood

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When Traffic Apps Maps Took Over My Neighborhood

by Laura Bliss, CityLab

In an excerpt from the new book The Future of Transportation , CityLab’s Laura Bliss adds up the “price of anarchy” when it comes to traffic navigation apps. This essay is adapted from SOM Thinkers: The Future of Transportation , published by Metropolis Books.

There might not be much “weather” to speak of in Los Angeles, but there is traffic. It’s the de facto small talk upon arrival at meetings or cocktail parties, comparing journeys through the proverbial storm. And in certain ways, traffic does resemble the daily expressions of climate. It follows diurnal and seasonal patterns; it shapes, and is shaped, by local conditions. There are unexpected downpours: accidents, parades, sports events, concerts.

Once upon a time, if you were really savvy, you could steer around the thunderheads—that is, evade congestion almost entirely.

Now, everyone can do that, thanks to navigation apps like Waze, which launched in 2009 by a startup based in suburban Tel Aviv with the aspiration to save drivers five minutes on every trip by outsmarting traffic jams. Ten years later, the navigation app’s current motto is to “eliminate traffic”—to untie the knots of urban congestion once and for all. Like Google Maps, Apple Maps, Inrix, and other smartphone-based navigation tools, its routing algorithm weaves user locations with other sources of traffic data, quickly identifying the fastest routes available at any […]

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