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Waze Looks To Fill In Missing Data From Tunnels By Switching From GPS To Bluetooth Beacons

22 September 2016, 7:57 am EDT By Aaron Mamiit Tech Times
Waze is looking to provide drivers with information on tunnels through the new Beacons Program. The beacons that will be installed will utilize Bluetooth instead of GPS, as the latter is unavailable in underground spaces.  ( Bluvision )

Navigation app Waze has proven itself to be very important for drivers, primarily because the information that it provides comes from the users themselves. However, there are a few limitations to this setup, including information on tunnels.

Whenever drivers enter tunnels or other underground areas, they lose access to Waze information due to unavailable GPS signal. Waze has come up with a solution for this problem, and it is known as the Beacons Program.

The Waze Beacons Program looks to enlist the aid of cities and tunnel operators to help users of the Google-owned navigation app in their travels. The program is powered by so-called beacons, which are actually low-energy, battery-powered microcontrollers that are meant to be installed on the walls of tunnels.

The beacons, manufactured by hardware partner Bluvision, will be communicating with the smartphones of users through Bluetooth instead of GPS. They are built on Eddystone, which is the open beacon format of Google.

The devices will look to provide drivers with more accurate estimates on travel times, as Waze will now be able to acquire information from within tunnels where users will be passing through in their selected route to their destination. Users will also be able to check the traffic information inside the tunnels, giving them the option to choose an alternate route.

Users will not have to do anything to benefit from the program, aside from making sure that their Bluetooth is turned on.

Cities and tunnel operators looking to participate in the Waze Beacons Program will need to make hefty investments, though. Each beacon comes with a price tag of $28.50, and a typical installation will require about 42 of the devices per mile, which comes down to about $1,200 per mile of tunnels. The investment will provide great assistance to drivers, though, especially for locations that are attractive to tourists who are unfamiliar with the tunnel systems. With the beacons in place, drivers will be able to access the traffic data of the tunnels and will be provided navigational data so that they would not miss their exit.

While the beacons come with Waze branding, the company will allow other navigation services to utilize the technology for their own apps without costs, which will provide further convenience to drivers.

Currently, beacons have been installed in a few tunnels in Pittsburgh and in Haifa, Israel, the country where Waze was founded before being purchased by Google for $1 billion in 2013. Beacons will soon be fitted in tunnels in Rio de Janeiro and Paris.

In recent news, Google has been tapping the potential of Waze as a ride-sharing platform, similar to Uber and Lyft. However, no rivalry is expected soon, as the service being tested on Waze is more for casual drivers who can pick up passengers looking to go to the same place where the driver is going to.

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