Everyone uses Waze, right? I mean, it’s a great app that lets you know which route to take to get home from work faster. But what I find interesting about it is the community aspect of it all. People are out there updating you. Letting you know where the police are, or where the accidents are. It’s great from that perspective, but the New York Police Department doesn’t agree. In fact, they have sent Google a “cease-and-desist” letter where they tell them to kill one of those features. More specifically, the feature that allows people to indicate where the police are. The rationale? The NYPD feels that this feature is making it harder to enforce the law and keep the roads safe.
But is that something that we buy? There’s a part of me who thinks in very black and white terms, so from that perspective, I can see the benefit of the police. But there is also a part of me that understands injustice and thinks that what the police are doing isn’t necessarily making anything safer. I would stretch that argument out a bit and suggest that the police aren’t necessarily making the roads any safer for other drivers. They should be concerned about pedestrian safety. With that said, are the police sitting in front of a school, making sure no one is speeding? Nope. They’re out on the highways and interstates, sitting under an overpass or in one of those turn around spots for law enforcement and they’re napping. I say they’re napping because I’ve sped past more than one of these officers, and usually walk away unscathed. My point isn’t that I haven’t been caught speeding, my point is that I don’t know that the police are doing anything when it comes to road safety.
But they’re not just arguing from the perspective of speeding. The NYPD wants Waze to stop this feature because it allows users to give others a heads-up about sobriety checkpoints. But Waze doesn’t have a “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) feature in particular. Instead, users can drop a checkpoint marker on the map and then add more details in the icon. Which makes it easy for users to tell other people that they can expect a speed trap, or a sobriety checkpoint somewhere along the road. If Waze gets rid of this feature, they’re no longer able to even notify if the police are on the scene of an accident. The NYPD are arguing that by having this feature, people might be engaging in criminal conduct, and essentially getting away with drunk driving.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not on the side of people who drive while intoxicated. But I am trying to understand why the police think that it’s Waze’s responsibility to stop all of this? In fact, I still would make the argument that the police just need to work harder, or smarter as they say. In some jurisdictions, the police are now driving some cars that blend in quite nicely with the rest of traffic. Both in color and even some of the lights and outside features. That, in my opinion, is a way that the police worked smarter, to come up with a vehicle that wasn’t so obvious. So why can’t they do that with this?
Google has made it clear that they have no intention to remove the feature. And Google makes a good point. The app is all about road safety, which gives them the ability to inform drivers about “upcoming speed traps and allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they’re on the road”. That said, if you see the feature disappear in the next couple of weeks, you will know why.