Google Assistant comes to Waze navigation app

Ever since Google acquired Waze back in 2013, features from each have been slowly making their way back and forth between it and Google Maps — and today Waze gets a big upgrade with Google Assistant integration, which means you can use the smart voice companion within the app.

Google Assistant in Waze will provide access to your usual Assistant features, like playback of music and podcasts, but it’ll also offer access to many Waze-specific abilities, including letting you ask it to report traffic conditions, or specifying that you want to avoid tolls when routing to your destination.

Google has done a good job of rolling out support for Assistant in its own Android Auto in-car software, and even brought it to Google Maps on Apple’s competing CarPlay system earlier this year. The benefits of having Assistant work natively within Waze are many, but the number one might be its potential to reduce distractions while on the road.

Waze remains a top choice among drivers, and anecdotally most Uber and Lyft drivers I encounter still swear by its supremacy over the competition, including Google’s other own-branded Maps solution.

Google Assistant will be available via a rollout starting today in the U.S., in English only to start and on Android smartphones. Expect that availability to expand over time.

Android – TechCrunch

Google’s Waze has expanded its carpooling app to every U.S. state

Waze Carpool, the app designed to connect drivers and commuters, is now available throughout the U.S. with a special focus on connecting Amazon employees.

As part of the nationwide rollout announced Wednesday, Waze said the carpool app will be available at 50 Amazon Fulfillment Center. The company said it’s partnering with cities, businesses, transit agencies, and civic organizations as well.

Waze originally trialed the app in markets, including San Francisco, Sacramento and Monterey. Waze expanded access to the app across California, Texas, Massachusetts and Washington. Now, it’s everywhere in the U.S.

“Traffic is at an all-time high in the U.S., yet over 75% of commuters journey to work alone in a car,” founder and CEO Noam Bardin said in a statement. “Waze is in a unique position to help facilitate carpooling on a national level. By leveraging the Waze community and connecting the dots between how people are traveling and where they want to go, we can empower everyone to reduce the number of cars on the road now.”

Waze Carpool isn’t like other ride-hailing services. The app lets riders and drivers find their own carpool buddies based on profiles, star ratings, number of mutual friends, and customizable filters such as gender, co-worker or classmate, and proximity to preferred route.. The app is designed to show the best matches, such as those closest to a preferred route or a coworker on the same shift,  at the top of the list. Payment is handled within the app.

The app lets users schedule rides up to 7 days in advance and a group setting enables several people to plan to carpool together.

Riders can download Waze Carpool on iOS or Android. Drivers need to download the Waze app. The company is offering all new riders $ 2 rides for 21 days.

The company is also rewarding drivers and riders for referrals. Drivers get $ 20 cash for each referral, and riders get $ 20 credit for each referral, with a max of 10 referrals per person.

Android – TechCrunch

Waze Carpool expands to the entire state of Washington

Google -owned Waze is growing the footprint of its Waze Carpool product with a market expansion today to cover all of Washington state. That means Carpool is now available in California, Texas, Isreal and Washington following today’s launch. Waze also recently revamped its Carpool experience, which now includes new options for choosing what rides to tag along with, driver gender filters and other convenience tools that are designed to make the experience feel safer and more comfortable overall.

Waze says this expansion shows that it’s increasing its commitment to the Carpool side of its project offering, since it’ll now reach an additional 375,000 commuters in Seattle alone. The company also has the support of local government in Seattle, with officials expressing their support for new solutions hoping to mitigate traffic in a press release announcing the launch.

The Waze Carpool app is different from other offerings including Uber Pool, mainly because it doesn’t pay out all that much to drivers. In fact, the maximum earning a driver can make on any ride is $ 15 and that’s for longer commutes, as the fee structure is designed to help the driver pay for gas but not use it as a source of income. Waze’s aim is to link up multiple people commuting to work going in the same direction via its platform, per the company. This also means lower costs for riders.

Anyone interested in driving Waze Carpool in Seattle can pick up the standard Waze app now to gain access, and on the rider side you can download the dedicated Waze Rider app on either iOS or Android to get started.

Android – TechCrunch

Ford adds Waze to its Sync 3 AppLink for iOS users

While some carmakers and others worry about Google’s domination in mapping and how that will play out in the auto industry, we are continuing to see announcements that point, if not to Google’s influence growing, its place in the market and how some may be testing the waters for more.

Today, Ford announced that it is integrating the Waze traffic and navigation app into its Sync 3 AppLink platform, making the app usable and navigable with touch and voice commands (“Talk to Waze”) through the in-car display system for the first time globally to all iPhone. Availability will start in April.

AppLink services are notable in that they help create a more seamless experience for smartphone users, to essentially access their apps on their car dashboards in the same way that they would on their phones. The bonus is that you get a larger screen and the use of your car’s sound system — making for a more natural and easier experience. In addition to the voice commands, users will get extra features such as additional navigation support with estimated carpool lane arrival times.

“We know that people enjoy a range of navigation apps to help them reach their destination safely and more efficiently and have worked closely with partners to make this happen,” said Don Butler, executive director, Connected Vehicle and Services, in a statement. “With the SYNC 3 AppLink platform, drivers can access their favourite apps safely and seamlessly while keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.”

The move is a long time in coming. The effort was actually first announced a year ago, at Mobile World Congress, by way of SmartDeviceLink, the consortium started by Ford and Toyota (and including other carmakers) to build more seamless bridges between smartphone apps and in-car displays. Ford has had availability for Waze for Android, meanwhile, since last year. Then, Ford hinted in January of this year that the integration was finally coming.

There are several other apps getting announced in the AppLink update today. Namely, the audio-on-demand podcast app Acast; the BPme gas stations finder and payment app; Radioplayer; and Cisco’s WebEx meetings app are all also coming to the platform. But given that there are over 100 million users of Waze, making it the world’s biggest navigation app based on crowdsourced information, it’s the more significant of the group.

The move is an important step for both Ford and Google for other reasons, too.

For Ford, it will help make its Sync 3 service more attractive to would be car buyers and existing owners (Ford says its 2018 model year vehicles running SYNC 3 version 3.0 or greater will be able to run Waze on its touch screen at launch. Other SYNC 3-enabled Ford vehicles can receive an over-the-air update or an update via USB to enable Waze functionality.) Ford tells me that there are currently 2 million AppLink users worldwide, which is a relatively small number considering that annually there are over 6 million Ford vehicles sold each year, and that AppLink has been around for years.

There are already a number of other navigation services available for Sync 3 and AppLink, with the selection varying by region. (In the UK, for example, options include Glympse, Sygic and Cityseeker.) But there is nothing currently on the market with the brand pull and use of Waze. Given that navigation is one of the more popular services on AppLink, having Waze availability is an important option.

For Google, the deal will mean more Waze usage, which in turn will help the app perform better. And it gives the company some more headway into the market at a time when reports are surfacing of tensions between it and automakers. Notably, a Ford spokesperson tells us that Ford is the first OEM to integrate Waze, and Ford is the first to integrate Waze for iOS for in-vehicle use. 

“Waze works as a personal heads-up from 100 million of your friends on the road – and now that will include the many Ford drivers who will be able to safely access our app while on the move through the car display,” said Jens Baron, product lead, In-Car Applications, Waze, in a statement. “Waze is more than just red lines on the map. It reflects a huge community of drivers on the go, outsmarting traffic together all around the world.”

The Waze/AppLink deal seems a far cry from the big partnership that Google and Ford tried to strike to develop autonomous cars, back in 2015 and early 2016.

That deal, apparently, never really took off in part because of differences over what form the partnership should take, a slow “frenemy” approach of sniffing each other out or something much bigger from the start. Sources have told us, and other reports also allege, that this helped contribute to Mark Fields stepping down as CEO of Ford.

In that context, it’s interesting to consider that this Waze integration is finally rolling out. It’s but a step for Waze iPhone app users, but one that could help lay the groundwork for or signal more trust and collaboration between the two down the road.

Android – TechCrunch

Waze finally arrives on Android Auto

 After a beta that kicked off earlier in 2017, crowdsourced navigation app Waze is coming to Android Auto. The Google-owned Waze seemed like a shoe-in for gaining app support for Android’s native in-car mode, but it’s taken a while to bring it to Android Auto – but the months-long beta and the time show that Waze wanted to get the experience right for drivers. The Waze… Read More
Android – TechCrunch