Google brings more real-time traffic reports to Maps, courtesy of Waze

The new features build on Google's previous acquisition of the mapping developer

Google's Maps app includes more real-time traffic reports via Waze's technology.

Google's Maps app includes more real-time traffic reports via Waze's technology.

Google is making good on its promise to make its Maps app more comprehensive and useful following its acquisition of mapping company Waze, with some new traffic update features going live Tuesday.

Now, users of the Maps app on Android- and iOS-based devices will have access to real-time incident reports from Waze users, Google Maps VP Brian McClendon said in a Tuesday blog post. That means that when people report accidents, construction, road closures and more on Waze, those updates will also appear within the Google Maps app in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S., Google said.

The integration between the two products is significant, said John Jackson, an industry analyst with IDC. While the new features for Google Maps probably will not attract new users in droves, they represent Google's attempts to add richness to its mapping products and provide more context to users, he said.

Google announced its acquisition of the crowdsourced mapping app developer Waze in June, for a reported price of more than US$1 billion.

Waze's mobile app, which is still operated by Google, is designed to provide "smarter" real-time navigation by letting its users share road reports on accidents, police checkpoints and other obstacles they encounter while driving.

At the time of the deal, Google framed the acquisition as a way for the Internet company to make its own maps products more comprehensive, useful and accurate. Waze claims to have roughly 30 million users, working toward a common goal of "outsmarting traffic."

Google last updated the navigation features on its Maps app last month, showing users reports of problems on the road. That information, however, came from other data providers such as TomTom and not Waze. Tuesday's changes constitute a wider set of real-time traffic reporting features for the Google Maps app.

The Waze and Google Maps teams "are working together to harness the power of Google technology and the passion of the Waze community to make it easier to navigate your daily life," said Google's McClendon.

The Waze app is also getting two new features of its own. First, the Android and iOS versions of the app have been updated to include Google Search, to make it easier for people to find businesses and local addresses. Second, the service's Map Editor tool now includes Google Maps Street View and satellite imagery to make it easier to correct map errors reported by the community, Waze CEO Noam Bardin said Tuesday in a company blog post.

Since the acquisition Waze's developers have been working to identify Google services that can improve the app for both its users and the editors who update its maps, the company said.

More integrations between Google Maps and Waze are on the way, Google's McClendon said, though he declined to name specific features Google's current plan is to continue to operate Google Maps and Waze as separate apps, a Google spokeswoman said.

Besides making its mapping products more comprehensive from a navigation perspective, Google also faces mounting pressure to monetize products on mobile as more people migrate away from desktop PCs in favor of mobile devices. To boost Maps' revenue, earlier this month Google announced some additional advertising features for the app. For instance, some ads for local businesses will now appear at the bottom of the screen after a user performs a search.

A Google spokeswoman said the company had nothing else to announce regarding future advertising plans for either the Maps app or Waze.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, launched a probe in June into possible antitrust issues stemming from Google's acquisition of Waze. The FTC is looking into the issue of whether Google, a dominant player in online mapping, swallowed one of its most viable competitors.

It is unclear how Tuesday's integration could impact that investigation. But there may not be space right now for another large-scale competitor, said IDC's Jackson. The only other strong player may be Nokia, which could provide some competition through its Here business unit for mapping and location services, he said. Tuesday's integration is not good news for companies like Apple and Facebook, he said.

"We continue to work with the FTC to answer their questions," the Google spokeswoman said.

The FTC could not be immediately reached to comment on the investigation in light of Tuesday's integration.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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