The navigation app Waze is beloved for exploiting shortcuts, avoiding traffic, and proving that the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line. But its sinuous directions can also be a source of annoyance for drivers, who are often asked to make treacherous left turns through oncoming traffic at dicey intersections.
Now the company is studying how to limit those white-knuckled maneuvers, which have become known as the “Waze left.”
“We’re looking at reducing that occurrence in our routing algorithm,” Paige Fitzgerald, the manager of Waze’s partnerships with government agencies, said in an interview. She said the company was responding to complaints by users and “pushback in the press.” Waze, in a statement, confirmed the effort but said a change isn’t imminent.
The Israeli company was acquired by Google in 2013 and contributes some information to Google Maps, though the apps remain separate. Waze stands out in an increasingly competitive industry for its crowdsourced data on driving conditions and aggressive directions that can include difficult, unprotected left turns.
Though the turns are perfectly legal, drivers have good reason to be concerned: 60 percent of collisions at intersections with traffic signals in the United States involve a car turning left, compared to 4 percent with right turns, according to the agency in charge of road safety. In part, that’s because there are more ways to run into trouble turning left:
Of course, it’s impractical to get places without ever turning left. And many Waze users argue that the app’s sometimes perplexing routes are usually vindicated by early arrival times. The Waze left, in that sense, is a feature and not a bug. The company has a huge following of users who won’t drive anywhere without consulting the app, and collect points by reporting congestion, speed traps, and hazards to fellow “Wazers.”