Q&A with Chief Wazer

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Q&A with Chief Wazer

Postby AsadoPrincess » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:07 am

Hello amazing community!

In order to kick off this new year properly, some of your most beloved Communities Team members went out to get a New Year’s greeting for you from no one else, but the Chief Wazer, Noam Bardin himself!

Since we know you all have burning questions about where Waze is heading in 2020, we made sure to get some answers to these questions on the way as well. (:

Please find the video here & the interview transcript below.

Happy 2020 from all of us at Waze,

Magali, on behalf of the Communities Team

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Interview transcript

What do you think will be Waze’s biggest achievement for 2020?

First of all, I want to thank you for inviting me to talk to everyone. I haven’t seen you guys since some of you in the meetup in Israel.
In the last 2 years we have been very focused on proving that Carpool can work, and it was much harder than we thought.
And I think you all, in a way, suffered, from this in terms of that we put most of our resources on this.
When we look at 2020, there are a few core areas we will be focusing on.
One is a big investment in infrastructure, specifically technical infrastructure, that can support a lot of things we are doing.
We are looking at the technical infrastructure of things such as routing, such as performance etc.
Second is a long list of things we will invest in, around the core product, which were starved for the last 24 months, so there’s a lot going on there. We are actually building a squad that specifically focuses on the core product.
When we think about the biggest success for 2020, our goal is to have the product move further up in the user experience, meaning when the user opens Waze today they are already in the car, starting their drive - so there’s very little we can influence there.
If we can have them open Waze earlier, before they leave their house we can be influencing when they should leave and what route they should take - and different options that will allow us to have bigger influence on the route they actually take.
And this I think most of you have already seen, the Start State, which is kind of infrastructure for this, predicting where users are going, we want to have them connect much stronger into the product.

What differentiates Waze from Google Maps and all other navigation apps? And how will our relationship develop with Google Maps moving forward?

When it comes to driving there’s three driving apps: Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze.
Apple Maps and Google Maps have a great advantage, their own operating system. And in general, if you are going to build an app it is great to own your operating system, there's a lot of great advantages out of that.
At the same time, because they are part of the operating system they have to offer a very wide scope of functionalities: search, discovery, walking, location, bicycles, public transportation, ride sharing, and all those different things.
We are only doing driving. We are going deeper and deeper in driving, all the time and with your help, we can actually begin understanding the driving issues in specific areas.
So one of the biggest investments we made in the past two years, along with your help, has been around local restrictions, and there’s a lot more to go there.
Local HOV, pricing of tolls, how can we get deeper to understand what’s specific about your area?
Not the global network, but the area where you live, you are the editor, where you manage - what’s unique? What can we do there?
I explained about all the lane guidance that’s coming, we have plans to take it much deeper than just on which lane are you in, so there are a lot of different things that we want to go in deeper.
We want users to think of Waze as their driving app - I am not here to help you decide which restaurant to go to, I am not here to help you find which subway to take - but I am here to help you find the best way to drive. And that is what is unique about Waze.
Google Maps has to do a lot of different things, we do one thing. Yes, there is overlap, and yes there is tension around that overlap, and yes, some things are competitive.
The way we kind of defined things, when things have to do with the safety of our users, we want to be as open as possible with Google Maps and share as much as possible. For example, how fast can you drive? For example, Beacons and tunnels. Things like that, we will share.
Things that are very unique and specific, to our use cases - we are going to have a much harder time sharing, such as HOV, road restrictions, and prices of tolls.
In those areas, we are competing with them. We want the user to use us, and not them, when they are driving.
Now - I use Google Maps all the time. Not for driving, but I use it for subways, for walking, for searching things - and that’s where we can collaborate.
If you look at some of the collaborations we had this year, around voice, wheeler, OK Google, etc - those were strong collaborations between Google Maps, Waze and the Assistant Team, which is part of Search.
These are the kind of collaborations that we want to promote.
On the search side, I expect many of you to know that we are now integrating with AutoComplete, that your locations, with the Google data - they are being integrated. That is the kind of thing we can do with the Search Team, at Google.
There are areas when it is a clear win-win for everyone, some areas where it is collaborative, and some areas where it is competitive.
I know a lot of people have all these kinds of theories about “what would happen if?” and “what is the plan?” and “where are things going?” - all kinds of conspiracy theories that you read about in the newspaper and the press in general, and as soon as you start believing what reporters write you have a different issue to deal with.
There is no plan to merge the product, each team is trying to do what is right for its users, with all the constraints each team has - so there’s not like there is an overarching plan here, we are going to be kept separate, I said it many times, and there is no plan to integrate the products.
In some areas we want to cooperate as much as we can, and voice is a great example, since it has added value to both our users, and some areas we are competitive, for example HOV speeds.
We are looking at all kinds of ways we can cooperate with them, completely knowing that when it comes to driving, we are competing.
People use us everyday when they are driving, we are not part of a search experience, we are not focused on tourists when they are in another country. We focus on everyday driving, you go from home to work and that’s most of the drivers that we have.

What are the new trends in the world of sat nav that we should be paying attention to in 2020?

I do not think it is much about satellite navigation, I would say it is about navigation in general.
And in the grad scheme of things, you know, you and us, together, Waze, are leading the way when it comes to driving.
If you look at all the driving features that Google Maps has launched, there are things we have launched before.
And if you look at Apple Maps, what they are doing and how their routing algorithm has evolved, is all coming from our direction. So I think, together, we are leading the space.
We see that from auto manufactures, that we are the number one request their users have. So how can we get Waze in the car?
So I do think we are the ones leading it. And in that sense, the feedback that we get from you, on what is happening locally in your country is really critical.
The trends in general, when it comes to driving, there is a growing understanding globally that whatever we have been doing in the past 100 years when it comes to driving, is not going to work in the next 100 years.
We are not going to be building enough roads, we are not going to be building more lanes, because the more lanes you add, the more traffic you create.
So there is a very big move to try and restrict driving, and you see this around the world, with HOV lanes on one side, with congestion pricing on the other side, with all kind of driving restrictions, like in Europe, Latin America, and this trend is only going to get more and more significant as we go forward - and this where our work together is so important.
Being able to understand locally in your town, in specific cities, where can an user drive, and try to optimize that as much as possible, to save users time and to actually use the infrastructure that exists.
We have tremendous openness from cities to try new things. And if we look where we are all going, together, these trends are going on on the traffic management side of cities and countries.
On the flipside, we are trying to represent that in the app, to help users actually do something about it.
One city official told me that they have all these great plans to make all these changes, but they do not know how to communicate that to the users.
If the user does not know there is going to be a restriction, and drives through it, then all that we’ve done was to give a ticket to the user - we haven’t made the traffic better.
So I think this is what excites me, where I think our partnership together is so important. How do we find new restrictions, how do we improve them, how do we allow people to optimize what they are doing everyday, and hopefully how can we allow begin timeshifting users, when should you leave your house, if you would leave half an hour later, maybe you could save 20 mins, right?
So all those kinds of different things are where we want to lead when it comes to driving.
And in comparison to the other apps, when you are getting into the car, when you are about to drive, your mind should be Waze.
When you are doing other things, Apple Maps, Google Maps, do whatever you want - when it comes to driving, the association should immediately be Waze.

What are the biggest challenges that Waze is facing as a company?

I think the biggest challenges we face, as always, are prioritization - what do we prioritize? Prioritizing the short term vs the long term, infrastructure vs. features, which features, where, prioritizing geographies, what’s more important in which geography?
This is, I think, the biggest challenge.
Whenever we decide to do, and to resource, I think all of us together have proven we can do it. You guys, have mapped out amazing things.
Who would have believed that you could map out HOV lanes so fast, when the feature came out? It’s there.
But figuring out how we are going to fund it and actually delivering it is the biggest challenge. And I know that's a lot of your frustration with us, you feel that we are not prioritizing the right things, and we can disagree, which is fine, and we have been doing that a lot over the years.
But I do think that is the biggest challenge, and when we look to our next generation of technical infrastructure, what we are trying to build is about how can we empower engineers, more efficient, create less dependency between different components, that can allow much faster innerations, and allow much fast experimentation with the features.
We are the ones holding you guys back with the things you want to do, and we understand that, we have to figure out how we balance all those things together.

With all the world being mapped, where are the community next challenges? What’s the future of our community?

So I think there is a very small percentage of what needs to be mapped, that has been mapped.
Roads have been mapped, and they are changing in whatever way they are changing - but what is allowed and not allowed on those roads? What is opened and what is closed? What construction happens? What restrictions happens? Real time information.
Information that changes in minutes, hours, days, even months, these are the really interesting things.
On the flipside, if you look at the direction our planet is going, in terms of climate change: massive storms, fires, and terrible weather situations are going to be the norm.
This is the world we are going to be living in, more and more.
And this is where at Waze, together, we have a responsibility to help people in hour of need. And it’s been phenomenal the stuff you have done in terms of crisis, etc, there will be, unfortunately, a lot more of that happening.
And as more floods happen, how do we close the right segments and open the right segments, how do we help people that are helpless and alone and how do we know where you can find fuel if there is a storm in your area and the gas stations are empty - all of those things are going to become part of our everyday life.
And this is where all of us have a responsibility to really use what we have built to help everyone else.

How is Waze addressing the challenges of mobility in the world?

The challenge of mobility is at the core, the idea of a single person driving, owning a car and driving alone in a car makes no sense, not for the environment, not financially, not for traffic and there’s just no way this can continue to scale the way it is.
So how do we get more people in the cars and leverage that is where Waze’s contribution is to mobility.
We are not going to be solving bicycles, and scooters, and public transportation that are very important and part of the whole solution, but what we are going to be focusing on is how to get the drivers to take more riders in with them, to make their cars more efficient and to take cars off the road.
This is really the Carpool side of Waze which is kind of an extension of our original mission, if we have started out trying to optimize infrastructure that wasn’t being utilized by routing people through roads they didn’t know, right? We have all been very successful at it - done, there’s no more empty infrastructure to deal with, the next step of empty infrastructure to deal with are now the three or four empty seats that are in the car.
And this is really the challenge we have long term, if people do not take more riders in the car, it doesn’t matter if the car is autonomous, it doesn’t matter if the car is electric - traffic is not going to change.
And this is our contribution to this much wider challenge that we have.

Where do you see Waze in 5 years from now?

When we all started out and people asked “where do you see Waze in ten years?”, I imagined a large percentage of people in the world driving with Waze everyday - I think we have all done a pretty good job at that - but there are still one or two people who are not driving with Waze.
So when I think about our challenges about where we want to be 5 years from now, we want to have most of the people driving with Waze and we want a big chunk of those people having multiple riders with them when they drive.
I can imagine the Waze networks, that is now mostly people driving by themselves, becoming a much more of a transportation network, in the sense of carrying more and more people per car and looking at that utilization as kind of where we want to go, and this is our biggest contribution to the planet - if we can take cars off the road, cars that are single occupancy vehicles, creating traffic, creating pollution, creating carbon emission - those cars, if we could shrink the number of them, then all of us together have done our bill for the world, and this is where I would like in the next 5 years to see a very significant impact, measurable impact.
Something we can all look at, and say proudly “We took off X tons of CO2 a year by people leaving their cars at home, we have improved traffic by X amount of minutes by people leaving their cars at home”.
There are the kind of changes I think we are doing.
10 years ago no one would have believed that Airbnb could become bigger than Hilton Hotels by becoming the largest chain of rooms around the world, it seemed impossible.
10 years ago the idea of people driving with an app on their cars - also seemed impossible.
So all those things that seemed impossible are actually possible, if we do the right thing and if we work hard at it, and if we don’t give up.
I want us to look back, 5 years from now and say “look at the tons of CO2 we managed to take off, look at the time we managed to save.”

Any last message to the community?

I just want to thank you again for the work you do, when you think about the unique functionality in Waze, most of it is really driven from the work that you do, and from information that you collect, and that is what gives us the ability to be so local and so specific, and everywhere I go in the world, people kind of think that Waze is their product, and it is.
It is theirs, because there are local people that live locally there, who are making the decisions on how to name roads, and what functionality we need locally and how the local network works and that’s all thanks to the work that you guys do.
I think that one of the most unique things about Waze is this relationship. Now, as you know, we have government entities here as well, we have employers coming in on the Carpool side, and the fact that we can all work together on this, is something very very unique.
I don’t see it in any other company in the world having that kind of relationship or any organization of volunteers having that kind of relationship with a company, is something very unique.
I think the world needs more of this.
We have more than enough hatred and cynicism in the world, but there are a few rays of sunshine about what people can do together, that’s positive.
And I think we are a very good example of that.
Unfortunately, I think the world is going to need a lot more of what we are doing moving forward.
So I believe our responsibility is going to grow specifically on what we are doing, when you think about the climate changing world that we are in, but also on a wider sense in terms of the hatred in the world, the lack of belief in each other - I mean, we believe in you 100%, you believe in us, we suddenly have government agencies believing with us, working together.
When you take a step back and look at it, is a very unique thing and we are all very lucky to be involved in such a movement.
So again, thank you very much for everything you are doing, and let’s have a great 2020.
Waze Team
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