Navigation app Waze has added COVID-19-related information and important locations to help users find essential resources during the pandemic.
The app uses reports from users on the ground to provide other drivers with locations of incidents that could affect their travels – such as crashes, roadblocks, heavy traffic, and stationary vehicles.
“As soon as the COVID-19 outbreak began spreading around the world, we activated our community and network of partners across our Volunteer Communities, Waze for Cities programs, and more to support crisis response,” Waze said.
The information will make it easier for Waze drivers to navigate trips for essential purposes, such as buying food or medicine or visiting healthcare and emergency facilities.
Big decline in driving
Waze said it has recorded a 60% decrease in miles covered by its users from the start of March up to 10 April when compared to a two-week period in February.
According to its country-level data, the earliest changes in traffic patterns happened in markets where the COVID-19 outbreak occurred first.
In Italy, which has been severely impacted by the outbreak, driving by Waze users has dropped over 90%.
The map below shows the average daily change in driven miles across the world, with brighter shades of red indicating a larger decline.
Waze’s COVID-19 response
Waze said its maps are maintained by over 30,000 monthly active map editors from around the world.
This community started working together with Waze’s crisis response team in February and are currently supporting 58 countries with region-specific relief efforts.
“Their work has ensured our maps stay up-to-date with road closures, red zones, and more, so that drivers can safely get where they’re going,” Waze explained.
It has also partnered with WhyHunger and No Kid Hungry to add more than 30,000 emergency food distribution locations to its map in the United States.
The company said it was eager to collaborate with more partners around the world.
Drive-thru and curb-side pickup
Additionally, Waze has rolled out a new feature to identify locations that offer drive-thru and curb-side pickup of goods.
The Location Personalities function allows businesses to add unique badges to indicate that they provide alternative pick-up options which require minimal physical contact.
Drivers are able to search, filter, and navigate to find a grocery store, pharmacy, or other stores that offer these options.
It is not clear if this feature is available in South Africa yet. It did not appear that any such locations were available on the Waze map or could be found via the search option as of Thursday morning.
Grocery store group Pick n Pay recently started offering a drive-thru option for collecting groceries.
This allows customers to send an email with their order to a participating store.
Customers can then stop in a designated parking spot at the store and a staff member will bring and unload the goods into their vehicle.
The customer can remain in the vehicle while payment is done with a sanitised payment terminal.