Disaster can bring out the best in people, turning ordinary zhlubs into heroes. Think of moms who lift whole cars to rescue trapped passengers. Bystanders who pull strangers to safety in burning buildings. Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure. Now, Waze is prepping for its moment to shine during the nightmare of Carmageddon.
For those outside Southern California: Carmageddon is a planned, three-day long fiasco during which Interstate 405 will shut down. The 405 is a major traffic artery for Los Angeles, and even though the closing is scheduled for a weekend (July 15 - 17), and even though it will affect only a portion of the 405, not the entire thing, it's bound to cause major headaches. Officials are so worried about the ramifications, they brought in Erik Estrada to deliver PSAs. Frightened yet?
Waze to the rescue
Waze is a free app for Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Nokia, and Windows Mobile that uses crowdsourcing to provide up-to-date data on traffic jams, detours, and the like. It's one of our favorite applications, and we're not alone: Waze boasts over 5,000,000 users around the globe -- 180,000 of whom live in Los Angeles. The company hopes that Carmageddon will offer Waze a chance to play the hero -- and to nab some free publicity, of course.
Waze is partnering with LA's ABC affiliate, KABC, to generate awareness of the app. KABC will use Waze to keep tabs on traffic throughout Carmageddon, letting thousands of viewers know about the app's capabilities. This could be a boon to drivers, since KABC's traffic cams and sensors can't possibly cover the broad area that Waze does. In theory, Waze will be able to alert the public to problems on backroads and bypasses in real time.
But the real question is: will this be Waze's "Twitter moment"? Or will the public (sensibly) stay home that weekend? We look forward to finding out.
P.S. If you're not familiar with Waze, we've pasted a quick video overview below. Beneath that, you'll find a clip of an art project that Waze carried out with artist Nik Hansellman, showing the ins and outs of ordinary (i.e. simply hellish) LA traffic.