waze

Google’s Waze has expanded its carpooling app to every US state

Posted by | Android, automotive, noam bardin, Transportation, waze | No Comments

Waze Carpool, the app designed to connect drivers and commuters, is now available throughout the U.S. with a special focus on connecting Amazon employees.

As part of the nationwide rollout announced Wednesday, Waze said the carpool app will be available at 50 Amazon Fulfillment Centers. The company said it’s partnering with cities, businesses, transit agencies and civic organizations, as well.

Waze originally trialed the app in markets, including San Francisco, Sacramento and Monterey. Waze expanded access to the app across California, Texas, Massachusetts and Washington. Now, it’s everywhere in the U.S.

“Traffic is at an all-time high in the U.S., yet over 75% of commuters journey to work alone in a car,” founder and CEO Noam Bardin said in a statement. “Waze is in a unique position to help facilitate carpooling on a national level. By leveraging the Waze community and connecting the dots between how people are traveling and where they want to go, we can empower everyone to reduce the number of cars on the road now.”

Waze Carpool isn’t like other ride-hailing services. The app lets riders and drivers find their own carpool buddies based on profiles, star ratings, number of mutual friends and customizable filters such as gender, co-worker or classmate and proximity to preferred route. The app is designed to show the best matches, such as those closest to a preferred route or a co-worker on the same shift, at the top of the list. Payment is handled within the app.

The app lets users schedule rides up to seven days in advance and a group setting enables several people to plan to carpool together.

Riders can download Waze Carpool on iOS or Android. Drivers need to download the Waze app. The company is offering all new riders $2 rides for 21 days.

The company is also rewarding drivers and riders for referrals. Drivers get $20 cash for each referral, and riders get $20 credit for each referral, with a max of 10 referrals per person.

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Comma.ai’s George Hotz ousts George Hotz as CEO

Posted by | Android, automotive, Comma.ai, George Hotz, GitHub, Personnel, Tesla, Transportation, waze | No Comments

Comma.ai’s board, of which founder George Hotz is the only member, is making changes at the autonomous driving startup: Hotz is no longer CEO of the company.

A new CEO, who Hotz declined to name, is expected to be announced Friday via the company’s Medium blog. He confirmed that the CEO is indeed a human and a “very talented one,” Hotz told TechCrunch.

Hotz, who gained worldwide fame under the hacker alias “geohot” when he cracked the iPhone and PlayStation 3 as a teenager, isn’t leaving the company he founded. Instead, Hotz and two others are part of a new division called Comma.ai research that will focus on building out behavioral models that can drive cars.

Comma.ai found the “right product market fit” during his three-year tenure as CEO, Hotz said.

“We have very good growth numbers, now it’s time to get the slope on growth even higher,” said Hotz, who is the company’s majority shareholder. “It’s much more of an execution problem now than a vision problem. And perhaps I’m not the best executor.”

Hotz said the company needed someone to scale the team from the 15 people who are there now to the “50 required to put out a real consumer product,” as well as work on reducing cost of the product and deal with regulators.

Hotz may be out as CEO, but he insists the fundamental ethos of the company won’t change.

“We’ve always been the North Korea of self-driving companies; we are driven by nobody else’s agenda,” he said. “That’s not going to change.”

And he’s still interested in self-driving cars.

“Eventually, what I want to do with my life is I want to solve AI,” Hotz said. “And I think that self-driving cars are still the coolest applied AI problem today.”

Comma.ai initially aimed to sell a $999 aftermarket self-driving car kit that would give certain vehicle models highway-driving assistance abilities similar to Tesla’s Autopilot feature. Hotz canceled those plans in October 2016 after receiving a letter from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration.

Five weeks later, Comma.ai released its self-driving software to the world. All of the code, as well as plans for the hardware, was posted on GitHub.

Today, Comma.ai has an ecosystem of products — the Eon, Panda and Giraffe — all aimed at bringing semi-autonomous driving capabilities to cars. Drivers who buy and install them in their cars can bypass the driver-assistance systems in specific vehicles — right now late-model Hondas and Toyotas — and run Comma.ai’s open-source driving software instead.

The Eon is a dashcam dev kit based on Android that can run Waze, Spotify and Comma.ai’s open-source dashcam app chffrplus, which lets car owners record and review their drives. The Panda is a $99 universal car interface that plugs into a vehicle’s OBD-II port and gives users access to the internal communications networks (known as a vehicle bus) that interconnects components in a vehicle.

The Giraffe is an adapter board that gives users access to other CAN buses not exposed on the main OBD-II connector. This allows commands to be issued to the car via software.

Pull all of these together and a vehicle has Comma.ai’s version of lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control. TechCrunch rode in one of these Comma.ai-equipped vehicles in July.

More than 500 cars are now using either open pilot or chffr, Hotz said, adding that this fleet is sending data back to Comma.ai. The company has collected more than 5 million miles of driving data.

“We’re using all of that data to create behavioral models of human driving,” Hotz said. “We’re now very good at localizing that driving data, figuring out exactly where the car actually went. So from that and the data, how do we actually train models to drive like humans.”

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Review: 2018 Lincoln Navigator

Posted by | Android, Ann Arbor, Apple, applink, automotive, automotive industry, detroit, Disney, Ford, land rover, Lincoln Navigator, michigan, navigator, radio disney, smartphone, TC, Uber, waze | No Comments

Michigan saw a historic amount of snowfall in 2018. And it’s not done. It’s snowing as I write this and it snowed nearly every day since I took delivery of this burgundy 2018 Lincoln Navigator. Excuse the dirty car shown in the photos. That’s life in the Midwest: half the year it’s impossible to keep cars clean of salt and grime and, to me, that’s the best time to review a vehicle. I’m happy to report the new Navigator is a comfortable refuge from the snowy winter.

I spent a week in the 2018 Navigator running from Flint, Michigan to Ann Arbor to Detroit. I filled up the 23-gallon tank enough to know to take it easy on the lively 3.5L EcoBoost V6. The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is luxurious and confident — but thirsty.

This is a luxury SUV. It’s not a sport truck and it’s not high-tech paradise, though it can play the part of both. The new Navigator was clearly built to be as comfortable as possible, and along the way Lincoln constructed one of the best luxury SUVs on the market.

Review

Winter hit Michigan hard this year and I found the ditch in my 2012 Dodge Durango R/T several times. It started snowing in December and didn’t stop until halfway through March. I grew up in Michigan and still live in the state. Driving in snow doesn’t bother me, though jumping into an unfamiliar vehicle and navigating snow-covered roads can be challenging. But not in this Navigator. I found it handles snow and slush and ice without an issue.

The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is a full-size SUV. It sits as high as a Ford F-150 and tends to lumber about as such. The ride is confident and stable. There’s little sway on tight expressway ramps and the automatic four-wheel drive quickly activates when a tire starts to spin.

This Navigator isn’t a sport truck, but it gets up and goes thanks to Ford’s fantastic 3.5L EcoBoost V6. This six-cylinder twin-turbo kit has found its way into nearly every full-size platform Ford offers. The Navigator is gifted with an updated version of the engine and it offers ample power across its range. The 3.5L surprises in this massive luxury SUV. It’s lively and powerful and more than enough to make the ride comfortable. During my time with the truck, I never felt at a loss of power, though I tried.

The engine is key to the Navigator’s appeal on several levels. First, 3.5L V6 offers decent fuel economy if driven conservatively while offering a decent bit of excitement if driven with that intent. Second, it allows Lincoln to say the Navigator is able to tow 600 lbs more than the Cadillac Escalade, which features a massive 6.2L V8. While both vehicles can ably pull a pontoon, the Lincoln does so with 510 lb.-ft of torque over Cadillac’s 460 — though without a boat of my own, I’m unable to confirm if the difference is felt in the real world.

The steering is light and responsive, though it’s impossible to forget this is a massive vehicle. It drives like a truck — though not your grandfather’s work truck. The driver sits in a commanding position that makes for good visibility. The vehicle’s suspension lets it cruise over rough roads and most bumps are absorbed. It’s a big SUV and there’s a fair amount of body roll on on-ramps. Parking isn’t an issue. There are plenty of cameras positioned around the vehicle to help maneuver this land yacht.

The interior of the new Navigator stuns. Wood, leather and chrome adorn the surfaces and walks close to the line of bling. It begs the confirmation that it ultimately comes from an American automaker. Take the badging off the interior and it could easily be mistaken as a luxury European SUV — though this Navigator is bigger than anything offered across the pond.

It’s roomy inside. Storage is abundant but cleverly hidden so as not to look like a minivan. There’s plenty of leg room for second-row passengers while the third row is surprisingly roomy.

The seats are something special. Sure, they’re comfortable and supportive like any found in high-end SUVs. It’s their design that sets them apart. The cushions jet out from a large back support making them look more like an Eames lounger than an overstuffed leather recliner. The design is a stark departure from most automotive seats, and I’m a fan.

The back seats are not nearly as comfortable. They’re supportive and offer several seating positions. In this tester, the rear seat is equipped with a center console that sports a small LCD screen that displays the media currently playing. The kids love it and I’m sure Uber passengers would too. As a parent to two kids, I found it annoying to cede control of the radio to the backseat. Thankfully there’s a button above the climate controls that disables the backseat controls, because I can only listen to Radio Disney for so long.

Tech

There’s an LCD screen mounted in the center of the dash. It’s large enough to be usable though not distracting. The best part? The screen doesn’t show fingerprints. There’s clearly a coating over the screen that somehow, magically, makes fingerprints invisible. Glare doesn’t seem to be an issue, though, as previously mentioned, it’s been snowing for a week and I haven’t seen the sun at all during my testing.

The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is equipped with a Lincoln-badged version of the Ford Sync 3 infotainment system. The automaker rolled out this system with 2016 models and it’s a massive improvement over previous Sync versions. It’s not the best infotainment system available, but it’s good enough. Vehicle functions and controls are in logical places and Ford’s AppLink system offers support for some third-party apps now, including Waze .

Android Auto and CarPlay are also available when used with compatible devices. I’ve grown to avoid these systems and prefer to stick with most systems developed by automakers. I was initially a fan of CarPlay, but Apple has yet to advance the platform, and now several years after its launch, it feels dated and unusable.

The Navigator’s smartphone app is clever. Need to put in navigation info? With the Lincoln Way app, drivers can input a destination on their smartphone app before they get into the vehicle and send those directions to the Navigator. It’s much easier than entering the destination through the in-vehicle system. The app also lets drivers start the car, order roadside assistance or service and locate the car.

Competition

This new Navigator is in a class of its own. The Cadillac Escalade’s interior is vastly inferior, the Mercedes-Benz GLS is dated and much less roomy. The Lexus LX and Toyota Land Cruiser have better off-road chops, but the platform is over 10 years old and it shows. Land Rover’s SUVs are more expensive and its three-row models are much smaller and less powerful than the Navigator, though new models are coming out soon.

There simply isn’t a more luxurious, roomy six- or seven-passenger vehicle available than the new Navigator.

I’m in the market for a new vehicle and recently test drove several used 2017 Lincoln Navigators. It’s a nice truck, but lacks the wow factor of the 2018 Navigator. Where past models were clearly a rebadged Ford, complete with similar plastic trim and equipment, the new Navigator is a fresh departure from its Ford counterpart, the Expedition. Similarities between the two models still exist, though they’re less pronounced, with the Lincoln clearly getting the nod toward luxury.

The Navigator of today is much better than the Navigator of yesterday. Lincoln improved the Navigator in nearly every way. The ride, the comfort, the technology. Everything is better, and that’s impressive and must be noted.

The Navigator is 25 years old this year. It was one of the first American-made luxury SUVs, but it has nearly always been overshadowed by the Escalade — and for good reason. The Escalade has always offered more everything than the Navigator. But not anymore.

The new Navigator sets the bar. It’s luxurious. It’s powerful. The Navigator is wonderful.

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Waze officially launches its ad program for small businesses

Posted by | Advertising Tech, Apps, Google, Mobile, waze | No Comments

With the launch of Waze Local, Google-owned navigation app Waze is offering small businesses a way to market themselves to consumers  on the road.

Waze has allowed larger brands to buy ads for years, and it’s been beta testing Waze Local since 2016.

“It’s been a gradual strategy,” said Matt Phillips, who leads the Waze Local team. “We wanted to get it right.”

He added that the key is understanding the needs of small businesses — like the fact that most of them are more interested in driving traffic to their physical stores than their websites.

As Phillips explained it, Waze Local’s “core ad format” is the branded pin, which will appear on users’ screens as they drive near a store’s location. For some advertisers, such as coffee shops, a branded pin might persuade drivers to make a quick detour before they continue their commute. For others, the pin might not lead to an immediate action, but it still helps build awareness.

In addition, Waze Local offers advertisers the opportunity to promote their listings in Waze search results, and to run what the company calls a zero-speed takeover — a big banner ad across the top of the screen, which only appears when the driver has come to a complete stop. And advertisers can see real-time data on how their campaigns are performing.

Waze will charge for ads on a CPM basis, and Phillips said businesses running the most basic campaigns could pay as little as $2 per day.

If you’re worried about the app getting overrun with ads, it’s worth remembering that Waze was already offering these formats to larger advertisers. So you may just see more ads now, and more of them are likely come from local businesses. (Phillips also said Waze will never show more than three branded pins at one time.)

During the beta test, Waze Local ended up driving an average 20 percent increase in navigations to the businesses buying ads. One of the early advertisers was Kung Fu Tea, which saw more than 5,500 drivers navigating via Waze Local to 16 Kung Fu Tea locations over a three-month period.

When asked if Google might eventually connect Waze Local to its other ad products, Phillips acknowledged that Waze does share some anonymized data with Google around things like traffic, but he said, “Our focus is to build this platform for small and medium businesses … We’re happy with the roadmap as is.”

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Waze finally arrives on Android Auto

Posted by | Android, Apps, automotive, Google, TC, Transportation, waze | No Comments

 After a beta that kicked off earlier in 2017, crowdsourced navigation app Waze is coming to Android Auto. The Google-owned Waze seemed like a shoe-in for gaining app support for Android’s native in-car mode, but it’s taken a while to bring it to Android Auto – but the months-long beta and the time show that Waze wanted to get the experience right for drivers. The Waze… Read More

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Waze brings its carpooling service to the Bay Area

Posted by | Apps, Carpooling, Google, Mobile, ride-sharing, TC, waze, waze rider | No Comments

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 12.01.35 PM Google-owned navigation app Waze is expanding its ride-sharing ambitions with the launch of a pilot program in the San Francisco Bay area which will allow employees of select companies to carpool to and from work via Waze’s carpooling service. This program is similar to the service Waze began testing last year in Tel Aviv, Israel, via an app called “RideWith.”
The app… Read More

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Waze downplays exploit that let researchers track users

Posted by | Apps, automotive, Gadgets, hacks, Mobile, MobiSys, privacy, Security, TC, Transportation, waze | No Comments

map_wazers@2x-189683ccb1ad385f21269ea920bda9bd Waze has responded to security concerns raised yesterday in a Fusion report documenting an exploit found by UC Santa Barbara researchers. In short: it’s legit, but not as dire as it’s made out to be. The exploit leverages the Waze feature that shows you nearby users, showing that the data you’re seeing is live and giving you options should you need help. The researchers… Read More

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Waze now tells you when to leave, thanks to its new Planned Drives feature

Posted by | alerts, Apps, Driving, iOS, Maps, Mobile, TC, traffic, waze | No Comments

Waze Planned Drives_All iOS Screens (English_US) Turn-by-turn navigation application Waze announced this morning a handy new feature that will make it easier for those who are planning to drive to an upcoming appointment, meeting or other important trip: Waze Planned Drives. The option allows you to tell the app when you need to reach your destination, and it will then alert you as to when you should leave, while taking into… Read More

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Lyft, Cabify, 99Taxis & Others To Integrate Waze’s Routing Software In Their Own Apps

Posted by | 99Taxis, Cabify, cornershop, JustPark, Lyft, Maps, Mobile, navigation, ride-sharing, routing, TC, waze | No Comments

map_wazers@2x-189683ccb1ad385f21269ea920bda9bd Waze, the popular Google-owned navigation app that helps drivers route around traffic and alerts them to other road hazards in real-time, is today announcing partnerships with half a dozen companies in the on-demand and  transportation space worldwide, including Lyft, who will integrate Waze software into their own applications to provide routing and guidance. This, in turn will feed more… Read More

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Navigation App Waze Gets A Huge Redesign – Now Less Cluttered, But Still Needs Improvement

Posted by | Apps, mapping, Maps, Mobile, TC, waze | No Comments

waze2015 The Google-owned navigation app Waze has a number of standout features – its ability to alert you to traffic conditions and speed traps, and re-route you around traffic jams, for example – but its user interface was not one of its better qualities. Today, the company is attempting to change that with the rollout of an entirely made-over version of its iOS application that introduces… Read More

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