Waze (free) is a fun mashup of GPS navigation, social networking and gaming apps that uses the information gathered from the location of users' phones to offer directions and live traffic reports. As reported by Joshua Brustein of the New York Times Bits blog, Waze is now able to change maps in real time to reflect temporary road closures.
Waze gathers traffic speed info from drivers' phones, and currently has about 40 million users contributing to the stream of data. Unfortunately, if a road is closed suddenly because of weather or a bad crash, the Waze system has no way of knowing about the closure to change maps accordingly.
The folks at Waze decided to call upon drivers for help. Drivers currently get "points" for allowing the app to track their speed or by pointing out construction and speed traps. If drivers are stopped due to a closure, they can now report it for extra points. As Waze's algorithms begin to receive more and more driver verification of a road closure, the system begins routing other drivers around the blockage.
Waze is also being used in some other new ways in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The company worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pass along information about gas stations that were out of fuel, allowing the agency to deploy its refueling trucks where they were needed most. Waze is also now supplying information to the Georgia Department of Transportation to help create reports for electronic traffic signs on major highways and plans to expand that program more in the future.