The Crowdsourced Commute

There are few experiences more maddening than the commute – a word that one of my European friends recently told me is a uniquely American expression (not that there aren’t translations, but they are not utilized with the same frequency or associated vexation).

That’s why my interest was particularly piqued when I learned about Waze. While most GPS systems work from algorithmic processes and incorporate information from complex databases and satellites, Waze takes commuting information one step further. It’s an app for download that’s available on iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and Nokia systems. Drivers type in their destination with the app open on their device and receive a choice of routes which drivers can select from (and save their preferences for future drives). It tracks speed, remaining distance, and time to your destination on a 3D map – like most other systems. However, Waze also works to create a community of cruisers who can actively report information through Waze as well; warning fellow drivers of accidents, speed traps, or upcoming traffic blocks. For an activity whose most exasperating component is often the sense of isolation in a sea of people – Waze is bringing community to the experience. You can take a tour of the app here.

Which got me looking into other crowdsourcing efforts around the traffic conundrum. Apparently, in India, cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Kanpur, Bagalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and many others now have a Facebook page specifically dedicated to tracking traffic violations like this one. As Facebook users witness crime or violations, they are encouraged to post that evidence to the Facebook page and the traffic police will subsequently follow-up on the tip. One blog stated that a hit-and-run video posted on the Bangalore Traffic Police Facebook page received over 27,000 in just three days, which helped them track down the offending driver.

The question remains, however, if there is always a community to be created. Are people always going to helpfully indicate accidents to one another or just find new ways of lashing out in driver frustration? Is Facebook the best forum for citizens to deliver feedback about bad drivers? What do you think?

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