In 2013, Google purchased Israeli startup Waze for $1 Billion. Waze lays out directions for drivers on a street grid besides allowing one to see Facebook friends driving in the same direction. In addition to providing users with directions, it lets users scan real-time traffic information provided by other Waze users who are driving on the same roads. This information lets users know if there is an accident ahead, or if there are diversions on roads. Many users have come to appreciate the accuracy of the service especially in estimating time of arrival and taken in a journey. Waze also works as a trip planner, directing you to the cheapest fuel stations and recommended restaurants along your route. The service has been popular in Israel, Malaysia, United States and Rio in Brazil, where it is integrated with the city’s traffic management system.
Google has now partnered with Safaricom in launching the service in Kenya. The service which is available on all platforms including Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry allows users to view traffic updates in real time, report situations on the roads, add routes and earn points (think of the points from the same perspective as Foursquare mayorship). We the guys at Techweez are already in competition to see who will get more points on the Waze leader board in a span of two weeks. The service has 50M users worldwide called Wazers who have travelled some 49.1 Billion kilometers while using the service. The service also has 500,000 map editors, who add new routes besides offering information on existing ones. Safaricom becomes the 9th carrier worldwide to push the service since launch.
Waze has recently launched a car pooling service in Israel that allows users who live close or work in the same company to use the same car. The service called Ride With, is available to android users and sets a maximum price and charges modest fees based on fuel costs and depreciation. Waze will take a 15% cut from the service. By integrating Waze into its navigation, the app will learn the routes drivers use frequently and then match them with people seeking to travel in the same direction.
The entry of Waze into the Kenyan market sets it in direct competition with Kenyan service Ma3route that offers traffic updates and information via Twitter, SMS and web. Google is of course relying on the marketing power of Safaricom in driving the uptake of the service. Go right ahead, download the App, and compare your points with us in two weeks.