Waze pioneered the idea of putting a lightweight social layer of reporting traffic and cops on a maps app. That made it super popular around the world — so much so that Google up and bought it in 2013. Since then, Waze features have crept their way into Google Maps from time to time, and vice versa. Today’s news is the second thing: there will now be a Google Assistant button (and “Hey Google” hotwording) on Waze now.
Google put the Assistant right into Google Maps earlier this year — and it might have served as a bit of a Trojan horse to get iPhone users more used to using Google’s AI instead of Siri. For Waze, Google is keeping the feature Android-only for now. It’s also only launching in the US for English-speakers — and Waze-specific commands may not work in Android Auto.
The main differentiator is that Google is touting that you can make your traffic reports with your voice instead of tapping buttons on the screen. You can say ask to avoid tolls or say “Hey Google, report traffic,” for example, like so:
Along with reporting speed traps, the Google Assistant will do the same stuff that it’s able to pull off in Google Maps, like controlling music or podcasts, setting destinations, and starting calls. Here’s a list of some Waze-specific commands:
- “Hey Google, report a crash”
- “Hey Google, report traffic”
- “Hey Google, report police”
- “Hey Google, allow/avoid tolls/highways”
- “Hey Google, show me alternate routes”
I’m sure Waze users will be happy to have easier access to voice controls, but color me vaguely worried. I’m on record and thinking Google Maps is becoming the iTunes of mapping apps: it’s trying to do too many different things at once. It has a chat app inside it, for Pete’s sake. I just hope the same sort of bloat isn’t coming for Waze.