Apple Maps’ Waze-Killer Update to Be Released Next Week

iOS 14.5 Apple Maps Incident Reporting Credit: MacRumors
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Although Apple Maps had a pretty rocky start when it debuted eight years ago, there’s little doubt that the quality and accuracy of the mapping service has improved in leaps and bounds. Even so, however, there have been several areas in which Apple Maps still doesn’t compete with its popular rival Waze, but now it looks like Apple is taking steps to quietly address at least one of these bullet points in iOS 14.5.

In a new feature first discovered in the iOS 14.5 beta, it looks like Apple Maps will soon allow users to report accidents, hazards, and speed checks while navigating along their route.

This is a feature that has long been the bread and butter of Waze, and it likely the main reason many users still swear by the third-party mapping app even over the behemoth Google Maps, which has long been the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to mapping and navigation apps.

In fact, Waze had enough of a loyal fan base that Google acquired it for almost a billion dollars back in 2013, and yet despite fears that it would end up being assimilated by Google Maps, the search giant has quite surprisingly continued to maintain it as an entirely standalone app and service for the past seven years, although of course it’s a fairly safe bet that Google is feeding all the data it collects from Waze users into its larger mapping and navigation algorithms to improve Google Maps.

Apple’s Incident Reporting

In iOS 14.5, however, it looks like Apple is preparing to close that gap.

As soon as you begin navigating to a new destination, Siri will announce that you can report accidents or hazards that you see along the way.

In terms of the visual user interface, this takes the form of a new “Report” button that takes the place of the “Overview” button when you swipe up to see additional controls in navigation mode.

Tapping on the “Report” button will bring up a second screen that lets you indicate whether you’re flagging an accident, a speed check, or another road hazard.

At this point, tapping one of these three options simply flags that at your present location without asking for any additional information or even a confirmation, likely to make the process as easy as possible while on the road.

Further to that end, you’ll also be able to use Siri to report an accident with little more than your voice — calling our “Hey Siri, there’s an accident” will immediately file a report in Apple Maps, showing a quick confirmation dialog in the Maps app.

The feature is also available when using CarPlay, where it appears as a “Report” option in the standard navigation menu, leading to the same three reporting options.

It’s also worth noting that right now the reporting options are specifically limited to these three things. For example, if you ask Siri to “report traffic,” it will simply respond by telling you that only the other three options are currently available.

At this point, it’s also unclear exactly what Apple is going to do with this information, although it’s safe to assume that it’s part of a crowdsourcing solution similar to Waze, whereby road incidents will be automatically added to Apple Maps if they’re reported by enough users.

What the thresholds will be for this, or what type of other algorithms Apple will use, remains an open question at this point, although presumably the feature will only be useful if the data gets updated in a timely manner.

According to one Redditor who has tested the feature, it does look like any incident reports you make yourself will show in Apple Maps immediately as a hazard icon. Tapping on the marker in Apple Maps will show that it was reported by you, along with options to indicate that it’s still present or that it’s no longer applicable. It’s unknown how your reports will appear to others, however.

It’s also not yet clear if Apple ultimately plans to roll this out beyond the United States, however at this stage it does appear to be limited only to the U.S.

The “Report” button isn’t appearing at all when navigating here in Toronto, and when we asked Siri to “Report a hazard” it came right out and told us that “Incident Reporting isn’t available in Canada,” which suggests that Apple likely has no plans to support the feature internationally — at least not with the initial iOS 14.5 release.

Nonetheless, the appearance of the feature is a very promising development for Apple Maps users, especially those who may have been reluctant to move over from Waze and give up the benefits of crowdsourced traffic info.

iOS 14.5 will be officially released to compatible iPhones next week.

This article was originally written on February 10th, 2021.

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