Waze Admits Algorithm Trouble Sending Israeli Drivers on Wrong Routes

The navigation app Waze has been experiencing algorithm problems on Israel's busy streets, redirecting its one million users to cities far away and causing widespread inconvenience

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Waze, the mobile satellite navigation application, is seen on a smartphone in this photo taken in Tel Aviv in 2013.
Waze, the mobile satellite navigation application, is seen on a smartphone in this photo taken in Tel Aviv in 2013.Credit: Nir Elias/Reuters

Recent increases in Israel's road traffic have played havoc with digital navigation company Waze’s algorithm, causing it to serve up inefficient or incorrect travel routes and producing widespread frustration among its more than one million Israeli users, the Ynet news site reported on Wednesday.

"We have a problem with the algorithm. The more people we serve, the more it’s affected," CEO Guy Berkowitz told the news site. "The coronavirus has put us in a situation where we have to reinvent our algorithm” because of recent significant increases in road traffic."

The tech firm, which was purchased by Google for $1.03 billion in 2013, is working on rolling out the necessary updates to solve the problem, Berkowitz said.

Traffic near the train on Ayalon highway, 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod

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“The history of the road – which is part of our algorithm – no longer reflects reality,” he continued. “Think of a road whose history shows that there are no traffic jams, and today it is full. So the coronavirus has killed our history and the algorithms need to change and give much more weight to what is happening in real time – and this is not always true, because the way we direct you is not necessarily the short or fast way, but the Waze way.”

Multiple Waze users told Ynet that they had experienced severe inconvenience because of the app, describing being rerouted to cities far out of their way and complaining that the app “just went crazy.”

Road traffic over the first two weeks of October was 23 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels, financial news website Globes reported last week, citing Waze. A combination of road work and people eschewing public transportation due to health fears has led to the rise, it said.

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