What It's Like Using Waze, The Navigation App That's Created A $1 Billion Bidding War In Silicon Valley

texting while drivingUsing Waze seems as distracting as texting while driving.

Yesterday, rumours re-surfaced that Waze might be acquired for $1 billion.

Google and Facebook are both reportedly interested in the social navigation app. Earlier this year, Apple was said to be interested in owning Waze for a similar price.

What’s the attention-grabbing navigation app all about?

Waze is an iOS app with more than 40 million registered users. It’s headquartered in Israel and was founded in 2007 by Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine. Noam Bardin is the company’s CEO. It has gone on to raise $67 million from investors.

Waze is like Apple Maps and Google Maps in that it lays out directions for drivers on a street grid. It also has voice navigation. In addition to providing users with directions, it lets users scan real-time traffic information provided by other Waze users who are driving on the same roads.

A Waze driver a few miles ahead of you, for example, could report an accident and that cars aren’t moving. Another might tell you where a cop is hiding around the bend.

I tried the app last weekend while driving up the east coast. While I enjoyed Waze, I ultimately found it more distracting than helpful. If your head is down scanning the highway ahead for traffic alerts and accidents, your eyes aren’t on the road. I slammed on my brakes more than once while trying to figure out why I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic (I swear, I’m not the stereotypical bad female driver. I haven’t gotten a ticket since college).

In addition to being visually distracting, Waze also makes distracting sounds by default. There’s a game element to the app that lets you rack up points based on tips you leave and the number of miles you drive. But it’s startling to hear a loud chime play whenever Waze feels you’ve hit some sort of driving milestone, which is often.

Waze has some safety features in place. For example, the app won’t let you type while you’re driving. It asks you to pull over first before you can type a destination. You can also turn yourself “invisible” on the app, if you don’t want others (like Facebook friends) to be able to locate your whereabouts on Waze. And sounds can be turned off.

After my first experience with Waze, I’d recommend only letting a navigator, not a driver, use the app while you’re on the road. Otherwise it could cause more harm than good.

Thinking about trying out Waze and seeing what the fuss is about?

Welcome to Waze!

Waze realises you're new. It helps you get started.

You can plug in your home and work addresses so you don't have to constantly type them in.

In addition, you can create a user name, set your mood, or send messages over the app.

As you drive, you earn points and bump up levels. Here's how the points are scored.

Here's what a current Waze score looks like. You can connect to Facebook to see how your friends are doing and where they're driving too.

One way to get points is to leave tips for other nearby drivers. Here are all the things you can do on Waze.

And all the things you can report. Here's a list of all the reports nearby. You can view cops, accidents and more.

Here's a nearby accident reported, for example.

A policeman.

And nearby traffic jams. You can also sort by traffic jams on the route to where you're headed.

You can also find nearby gas stations and prices (addresses are listed too, but they've been deleted in the below screenshot).

Here's what it's like to get directions on Waze. You can type in a location using the search feature, just like Google and Apple Maps.

Waze then tells you how long it will take to get there, and what to be weary of during your drive.

The route looks like a cartoon version of Google Maps. But you can see floating heads on the way. Those are police icons.

If you click on the icon, more information pops up so you can navigate around the area or proceed with caution.

What's it like using another hot new startup? Check out:

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