Oxfordshire County Council, UK, has teamed up with the people behind the free social traffic and navigation app, Waze (owned by Google), in a bid to reduce traffic congestion.
Following in the footsteps of Transport for London (TfL), the council has become Waze’s second UK Connected Citizens Partner (CCP) – a free, two-way data exchange that empowers municipalities to harness real-time driver insights to improve congestion, make better-informed planning decisions, and reduce emergency response times.
The council hopes to mimic some of the success achieved by one of Waze’s 147 global partners, the city of Boston, Massachusetts, where city officials have successfully reduced emergency response times by four minutes.
According to a joint statement from Oxfordshire County Council and Waze, the UK loses on average between two to four percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in lost time, wasted fuel and increased business costs.
Average car speeds in city centers are also as slow as 7 miles per hour, so addressing all causes of traffic congestion could help to combat potential increasing costs to the economy and worsening air pollution.
Oxfordshire is growing rapidly, with 85,000 new jobs and 100,000 new homes forecast to be created by 2031. This will lead to further crowding in the county; therefore a long-term solution in the form of the CCP aims to catch congestion before it gets into Oxford and direct people to the most effective and efficient routes into town.
The project will involve Waze sharing anonymized aggregated data from its navigation app with Oxford County Council to improve traffic flow and ultimately determine future city planning.
Councillor David Nimmo Smith of Oxford County Council said the project would help the council “identify incidents and congestion hotspots in real-time, thus allowing users to make more intelligent journey choices.
“This project with pave the way for other innovative data sharing projects that can help enrich the knowledge that Oxfordshire County Council have on the transport network, enabling us to manage the network in the most efficient way for people traveling to and around Oxfordshire,” Smith said.
Finlay Clark, Waze’s UK head, suggested that the data could also “inform local drivers of critical information about major construction projects or road closures which might impact local driving, the end goal is to reduce congestion in the area.”
New Waze for success
Following Google’s $1.15 billion acquisition of Waze in 2013 – making it the first Israeli consumer-app company to be bought for over $1 billion – the company has enjoyed a successful roll out of its CCP program, claiming 147 global partners at the time of writing.
In Boston, a city Oxfordshire is hoping to learn from, Waze has helped officials to make traffic tweaks which have proven particularly useful at obtaining fast, reliable feedback on changes city officials make to the road system, the city’s chief information officer, Jascha Franklin-Hodge told the Washington Post.
“Traffic studies are traditionally done by people standing out on the road counting vehicles with a handheld counter during certain parts of the day,” Franklin-Hodge said. “What Waze allows us to have is a real-time, high resolution view into the performance of the entire road system in the city, without having people sitting on street corners with counters.”
According to the Post’s report, officials used Waze data to re-time traffic lights to ease congestion and cut traffic jams by 18 percent in the city’s Seaport District.
“We’re just scratching the surface of the potential that exists,” Franklin-Hodge said.