Waze Data Poisoning

People who don't want Waze routing cars through their neighborhoods are feeding it false data.

It was here that Connor learned that some Waze warriors had launched concerted campaigns to fool the app. Neighbors filed false reports of blockages, sometimes with multiple users reporting the same issue to boost their credibility. But Waze was way ahead of them.

It's not possible to fool the system for long, according to Waze officials. For one thing, the system knows if you're not actually in motion. More important, it constantly self-corrects, based on data from other drivers.

"The nature of crowdsourcing is that if you put in a fake accident, the next 10 people are going to report that it's not there," said Julie Mossler, Waze's head of communications. The company will suspend users they suspect of "tampering with the map," she said.

Posted on June 9, 2016 at 6:17 AM • 45 Comments

Comments

ElsieJune 9, 2016 7:56 AM

Also, a few stories from last year about police doing it.

I love this kind of tug-o-war over data. Full disclosure: I make a point of living on a cul-de-sac.

peturJune 9, 2016 7:57 AM

The abstract sadly twists the truth a bit: Waze it routing traffic through places where it shouldn't. Drivers and Waze think they are smart, but they are just self-centered...

BrianDJune 9, 2016 8:09 AM

Waze it routing traffic through places where it shouldn't.

It's a legal, public road. Why shouldn't waze route some traffic through it if there's construction on the major route that's causing a huge delay? Most likely all the folks who live in the neighborhood know about that shortcut around the construction. Is it wrong for locals to use it too, or it's only wrong for waze to be sharing information that only a local would know. Or someone with a map.

RonKJune 9, 2016 8:16 AM

@ petur

> ... shouldn't. ...

Could you possibly explain the basis for your (presumably) value judgement here?

Maybe you should lobby your local government for better traffic regulation (speed limits, etc.)?

MirarJune 9, 2016 9:17 AM

The better solution would be to discuss the map problem on the forum and mark a road as private to stop the routing, if it's that much of an issue.

It's not like the road-maps aren't edited by other users already. Not just the hour by hour data.

Trying to solve it by simulating blockages sounds more like they didn't understand how waze works.

caseyJune 9, 2016 9:18 AM

Streets are built to a purpose. The width, the drainage, the material are all considered based on use-case. Most neighborhoods expect random pedestrian use such as children or elderly crossing diagonally at convenient locations. Cities have painted pedestrian zones with automated crossing signs due to the increase risk to pedestrians. If Waze etc. are going to direct heavier volumes of commuter traffic through neighborhoods, I would hold them liable for the negative outcomes. Locals may drive 19 mph in the last 1/4 mile of the trip, but commuters may do 35 on the 'shortcut'. Even if no accidents happen the life-span of the roads with respect to pot-holes etc may increase economic burden on smaller communities. Drivers should just sit in traffic on the appropriate road.

"shouldn't..."June 9, 2016 9:35 AM

"shouldn't..."

When there is a road construction, and there's an official detour... that detour is probably taking a specific route for a good reason. For example, it may not be technically the shortest route, but it may be the roue that can handle the most traffic. In a case like this, the app is causing a problem that wouldn't be there if people simply didn't use the app and followed the signs.

Now that said, I've used an old fashioned map before to find my own shorter detour, but most people won't bother, so it doesn't overwhelm smaller streets as much when only a few people do this... It's when it becomes too massive that it's a problem. You get too many people following an app, and that's naturally recipe for problems with that mass in cases like this. (and the whole "head down" looking at their phone while kids are playing along the street is just scary and asking for deaths too!)

Clive RobinsonJune 9, 2016 9:42 AM

I can not speak for Wayz, however I can say from work I have done in the past why @petur has a point with,

Waze it routing traffic through places where it shouldn't.

Firstly not all roads are suitable for all vehicles, or for that matter drivers (whilst an experienced map reader will see this I doubt such a computerised system would).

Secondly the use of a road has a cost. Very roughly a cyclist does about one ten thousandth the damage of a fully loaded family car, which in turn does about one thousandth the damage of a loaded HGV or articulated vehicle. Those responsible dor repairing roads have limited funds, thus they make repair and maintenance decisions on historical traffic data, which is also very expensive to collect.

Thus if you start shoving "self centered" drivers of compleatly unknown experience down a route they have never used, you are not just increasing the risk for other drivers but also local costs.

JasonJune 9, 2016 10:15 AM

This isn't really an issue in my opinion, but for those who think it is an issue, this is going to get much worse with the continued focus on self-driving cars which will auto route folks based on traffic patterns. At least Waze is only used by the mobile phone savvy. Soon self driving cars will be the norm.

DanielJune 9, 2016 10:18 AM

Streets are built to a purpose. The width, the drainage, the material are all considered based on use-case. Most neighborhoods expect random pedestrian use such as children or elderly crossing diagonally at convenient locations. Cities have painted pedestrian zones with automated crossing signs due to the increase risk to pedestrians. If Waze etc. are going to direct heavier volumes of commuter traffic through neighborhoods, I would hold them liable for the negative outcomes.

This. I couldn't have said it better myself. The company is abusing the public infrastructure for its own commercial gain. In the same way that we charge trucks extra taxes based upon the weight of the vehicle (because of the extra damage situational weight does to the roads) we should be charging the company for the extra use a road gets beyond its intended purpose.

Of course, the venture capitalists will call this "disruptive" when the correct term is "exploitative".

albertJune 9, 2016 10:35 AM

In the US, in large cities, traffic enforcement is low priority, so any 'solutions' using LE are like pissing into the wind (unless you consider blocking certain streets by police). Waze and others of their ilk are unlikely to suffer any legal consequences of their activity. Richer communities can have cameras set up to detect, and subsequently ticket, through traffic during rush hour. That would be cool, and it would stop the shortcuts quickly, hopefully after the system was paid for:)

That being the case then, there -are- cheaper solutions to the problem. Can you guess what they are?

. .. . .. --- ....

ZJune 9, 2016 10:37 AM

Hopefully, one positive impact of such crowdsourcing apps is that historical traffic data becomes significantly less expensive for local governments obtain/analyze.

I suspect it will only be a matter of time before people think up other ways to throw off route-guidance in "undesired" areas, such as creating real-life obstacles (or apparent obstacles) that prompt users to report on the app. I often see neighborhoods placing gates (one obstructing the left lane, followed shortly by another obstructing the right) in an effort to regulate speed and congestion.

Those old Crown Vics sell for pretty cheap at police sponsored sales/auctions - park one of those bad boys at the top of your street.

Johnv2June 9, 2016 11:10 AM

If Waze etc. are going to direct heavier volumes of commuter traffic through neighborhoods, I would hold them liable for the negative outcomes.

While we are at it, let's sue the map companies too! I hear that drivers often use maps to choose a route around construction work and other sources of road delays. Can't have that; everyone must follow the Official Government Approved Detour or chaos results.

bJune 9, 2016 11:26 AM

This is nothing new - the police have been doing this as well:

http://www.dailydot.com/politics/police-waze-fake-speed-traps/

Also, everyone is right - urban planners designed different streets for different functions and as a resident of southern california there is a real cost to clogging up non-arterial streets. It's is absolutely NIMBY but it's also unsafe and lowers everyone's quality of life (my Waze experience is that you end up saving very little time if any following their insane directions over just the direct route).

Also, same issue in Europe, where GPS will sometimes take thousands of big rigs through a tiny english village causing mayhem.

Green SquirrelJune 9, 2016 12:35 PM

I am going to take this opportunity to whine about waze because I can sort of see where these people are coming from (and I use waze daily).

With a very big brush of generalisation, Waze (and Google Maps) traffic avoidance is terrible. It frequently diverts users off slow moving major roads (by UK standards, dual carriageways are probably back streets to most Americans) on to tiny, fragile arterial roads completely incapable of coping with the weight of traffic.

I have a similar experience to "b" above - 9 times out of ten, following a Waze detour takes you down a harder, slower and more stressful route than either knowing the area or sitting in traffic.

For some reason I cant quite explain, despite this, I have used waze on my journey to work and back every day for about 18 months now. It is still rubbish. Last year, one of the clients I regularly visited was next to a large factory and every day (five days a week for months) it tried to guide me through the factory. It was only because I knew the area I could avoid following the guidance onto a private road with no exits (and every day I marked the road as private). Last week I drove into a city hosting local marathon and lots of streets had been closed off. Every time I marked one closed, Waze tried to divert me to further up the road (which was also closed).

The app is terrible - but no, I dont know why I am persevering with it.

AndrewJune 9, 2016 1:58 PM

A bit off topic, I've been using and testing quite a few of gps devices and apps, one of the best feature they should have is lane assist / junction view.
It can save hundred of kilometers, especially in crowded cities when you have to decide in split second which one of the five roads ahead you should take.
Waze is now Google's, good for long trips, bad routes in cites, Google Maps got crowded and hard to follow, Nokia Here quite good for Europe, also TomTom and Sygic, both having good navigation features. I usually disable traffic navigation.

wiserabbitJune 9, 2016 2:06 PM

Traffic and highway engineering are fascinating off shoots of civil engineering...but that just might be to me.

That said, I agree with Casey. Roads are built to a particular specification which includes a lot of elements such as volume, flow, sight distances, etc. Waze use is negating at least the volume design elements that were used in planning in construction.

I'm not sure the "sue them" suggestion is actually a solution at all, although, at least in my briskly growing community, businesses that are moving in that are going to bring large volumes of traffic in are being required to fund some of the upgrades to infrastructure as part of their approval to build.

I'm also impacted by this - I live in a neighborhood off a road that could kindly be called a farm road. At the intersection of our street, there is a stop sign for our street but not for the farm road. This was never a problem because there was not enough volume on the farm road to warrant it. These days, sitting at that intersection adds 20-45 minutes to my commute due to the volume.

I think this is another in a long line of "all your data makes the world better but only as long as the data allows X company to make revenue this quarter" technologies. Waze can track the crap out of what road you are going down to point out "the cheapest petrol pump" but they can't be bothered to get the data around the traffic and highway engineering designs to build into their app to ensure that they are not sending tons of traffic into a traffic pattern that was not built to handle it.

And, just in case there are any of you reading this, it is important to remember that if you turn away from an obstacle, it is ok. The app will re-compute. There is no need to drive into a eight foot deep lake where the road should have been if it hadn't been raining for two weeks. Although my neighbors and I all really enjoyed the six straight water rescue shows we got to watch in a single day. Dude. We have a hovercraft. That's awesome.

Clive RobinsonJune 9, 2016 2:29 PM

@ Green Squirrel,

For some reason I cant quite explain, despite this, I have used waze on my journey to work and back every day for about 18 months now. It is still rubbish.

Hmm perhaps a genius could help you figure the reason...

Well Einstein is the worlds most recognised genius and I think he said "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity ;-)

Now I'm far from being a genius, so feel free to ignore this, but I think that you have not considered the benifits of sun, sea, and sangria whilst you loiter semi reclined in a gentle on shore breeze for a week or two ;-)

p54v3mvu9June 9, 2016 8:16 PM

WAYZ is a Country formatted broadcast radio station licensed to Hagerstown, Maryland, serving the Four-State Area. WAYZ is owned and operated by VerStandig Broadcasting.

DavidJune 9, 2016 11:25 PM

@BrianD,

You said: "It's a legal, public road. Why shouldn't waze (sic) route some traffic through it if there's construction on the major route that's causing a huge delay?"

The reason is Waze is not the local representative Government.

Residential streets, by design, are not intended for non-local traffic. This is why when you see a detour put up by the county, the alternative route is carefully planned to avoid residential areas that would not only be disturbed by the increased traffic, the residents may actually be harmed.

Remember, residential streets are part of the living environment around homes.

1. Children play on residential streets. Pet dogs and cats cross them.

2. Residential streets need to be clear because emergency services such as police, fire, and medical must have access if needed.

Smaller streets do not have areas where drivers may pull over to let a fire truck pass. So if you indiscriminately jam up small streets with Waze traffic and there is a fire at someone's house, the whole neighborhood may burn down.

So if Waze doesn't stop the unauthorized rerouting traffic, it better have an army of lawyers to fend off the inevitable law suits.

Green SquirrelJune 10, 2016 3:40 AM

@Clive Robinson - sadly, I can't afford to retire yet...... but as I sit in traffic each morning it becomes more and more tempting.

Clive RobinsonJune 10, 2016 5:07 AM

@ Green Squirrel,

I was only thinking of a couple of weeks restfull vacation.

Retirement is I know from others way to stresful to contemplate. Every one you know thinks you have your feetup in your slippers, with a cupper and a crossword and an old pipe to polish on your nose whilst trying to think what four down is, so they find you little things to do for the good of your body and soul... Ten such good friends could be the death of you when retired ;-)

NedJune 10, 2016 5:55 AM

Luddism abounds on both sides here.

Public roads are public that the public will use if necessary. "Shouldn't" is irrelevant.

If waze directed traffic clogs up the local roads, any decent crowd-sourced map app (TomTom etc) will detect that, and route people around the congestion.

The real problem is the crazy car-based commuter system. If people want fewer cars on the streets they *should* ask their representives to support effective mass transit solutions and stop subsidizing the car and petroleum solutions.

Bumble BeeJune 10, 2016 6:26 AM

@ the mob

I am getting sick of these arguments. If you live on a private road or in a gated community, then you have some control over who drives by. Otherwise, on a public road or street, there is what is legally referred to as an easement for the public to pass over that portion of your property which lies on the public right of way without being considered to trespass.

In which case as long as they are following traffic and parking rules or regulations, it is absolutely none of your business what apps they are using on their cell phones or in their cars, nor do you have a right to shoot at drivers or prowl or burglarize their cars or "hack" or intrude into their cell phones.

Clive RobinsonJune 10, 2016 8:46 AM

@ Ned,

Public roads are public that the public will use if necessary

You left out "and proportionate", which is the usual legal measure of public interest. And complaining that your un-necessary divertion across lower domestic catagory roads due to excesive use of the designated main roads and trunks is "proportionate" is not going to get you anywhere in court in many places. For instance in the EU more legal weight will go to a householder complaining of the "nuisance value" to their right of an undisterbed home life.

And you will probably find the same in any country that alows a local authority the right to signpost routes and make traffic calming measures. Such as speed and parking restrictions, "local traffic" and "through traffic" designations or asign clases of vehicles to individual lanes. All of which is near universal in the supposed first world these days.

@ Bumble Bee,

Otherwise, on a public road or street, there is what is legally referred to as an easement for the public to pass over that portion of your property which lies on the public right of way without being considered to trespass.

A public interest "easement" is very restricted in the behaviour it alows in most cases. Thus you would not be alowed to make a nuisance, run a business or damage the property and a whole slew of other activities. Thus even in a public place you can be found guilty of criminal trespass thus banned from the use of a region of property otherwise open to the use of the public.

Very few countries have a "right to roam" law and those that do are steadily reducing them one way or another. In the UK for instance, English "Bridle ways" were once open to all, now many are restricted to just walking or horses, and only at certain times of the year[1], whilst in Scotland you can be prosecuted by a land owner for even attempting to walk on a Bridle Way that crosses their land.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/right-of-way-open-access-land/use-public-rights-of-way

Dr. I. Needtob AtheJune 10, 2016 9:01 AM

Some people have a sort of gang mentality - they figure the people who live on a street own the street, and they have no problem asking "what you doing in our neighborhood?" It's a disease that can ultimately lead to George Zimmerman.

Never TiredJune 10, 2016 9:01 AM

If a false closure, accident or slowdown is inplace, Waze routes around it - so there are no other drivers to report that the closure, accident or slowdown doesn't exist.

Waze does have other mechanisms for clearing, however having a spokesperson so misleading or ignorant is worrysome.

AdamJune 10, 2016 9:05 AM

The easiest way to poison waze is to get people affected by the rerouted traffic to install waze and coordinate their attack so that someone reports roadworks and the others confirm it. At other times they should use waze as normally as possible.

A more sophisticated attack would be to burn some phones with fake location services that simulate routine travel but poison the results with incidents, crawling traffic etc. around the affected area. If 10 or 20 "drivers" are all ground to a halt, the road will be red and it's likely other cars would be routed away. It might require the phones to be running through a VPN, proxy or burner sim to stop Waze knowing they're originating from the same network.

Another possibility would be to poison the map itself. I don't know if Waze still uses Open Street Map any more (it's Google owned these days), but if it does then maybe edit the street info to turn 2-way streets to one way, 10mph zones, extra traffic lights, speedbumps, tolls, 3ft height restriction etc. It might even be possible to break the routing by adding loops or breaks to the road, e.g. split the road in two halves with a tiny gap as if they are cul de sacs.

MarkJune 10, 2016 9:41 AM

(and the whole "head down" looking at their phone while kids are playing along the street is just scary and asking for deaths too!)

Maybe if it wasn't illegal to use your phone while driving in so many places people could have it mounted up on their dashboards where they can both see the map and the road, instead of having to hide it to avoid a ridiculous ticket.

Scott RomanowskiJune 10, 2016 9:57 AM

@Adam
"Another possibility would be to poison the map itself. I don't know if Waze still uses Open Street Map any more (it's Google owned these days), but if it does then maybe edit the street info to turn 2-way streets to one way, 10mph zones, extra traffic lights, speedbumps, tolls, 3ft height restriction etc. It might even be possible to break the routing by adding loops or breaks to the road, e.g. split the road in two halves with a tiny gap as if they are cul de sacs."

I am neither a waze user nor an attorney.

It sounds like you're trying to maliciously harm others by blocking their legal access to public spaces. I think someone who does what you're suggesting is no different than someone who puts up fake "do not enter" signs.

--- Scott

Clive RobinsonJune 10, 2016 11:11 AM

Dr Ineed tobath,

Some people have a sort of gang mentality

It's actually a "tribal mentality".

A friend who does research into the way the average numbskull thinks and behaves has his "Communist Horde -v- Your Granny" test to demonstrate this.

You think up a senarior such as this "Ways -v- Community" case... And in effect ask "Would you alow a half crazed man screaming Russian and wearing a filthy uniform to drive a filthy tank belching black smoke and making teeth rattling noise to drive up and down outside your house?" then at another point in time ask "Would you alow a sweet looking little old lady in a tweed coat who asks politely if she can drive past your house in her nice new Prius electric car, do so?

It produces the same sort of response as to if you ask people about raising taxes to pay for emergancy medical aid. Those that associate themselves as being wealthy say no, those that associate themselves as being poor say yes. Whilst the smart people who realise it's realy a "public health" issue say yes, as it stops the build up of disease clusters that will kill rich and poor alike.

But honestly "residential roads" are not designed as "expressways" etc, and all resources are limited, especialy tax dollars, so finance is rationed to perceived need based on past figures. Thus the build quality and strength of residential roads is not up to,the weight of traffic of free/express ways and would quickly need repairing. Who sgould pay the bill? The local yax payers, or the tax payers where the new traffic comes from?

*NEW!* GLUTyUS *NEW!*June 10, 2016 12:13 PM

GLUTyUS: the new app that tells you how to find your ass with both hands in your back pockets.

Freezing_in_BrazilJune 10, 2016 12:38 PM

@Green Squirrel

With a very big brush of generalisation, Waze (and Google Maps) traffic avoidance is terrible. It frequently diverts users off slow moving major roads (by UK standards, dual carriageways are probably back streets to most Americans) on to tiny, fragile arterial roads completely incapable of coping with the weight of traffic.

Well, that when they don't send drivers into dangerous neighborhoods, as it happened last year in Rio [1 fatality].

Ari TrachtenbergJune 10, 2016 3:15 PM

Guys, Bruce is not an idiot ... the title is self-referential.

Guy La DoucheJune 11, 2016 6:15 AM

@Mark

Maybe if it wasn't illegal to use your phone while driving in so many places people could have it mounted up on their dashboards where they can both see the map and the road, instead of having to hide it to avoid a ridiculous ticket.

I know, right? It's just like those stupid "no explosives" laws that make us hide our bombs and IEDs. If we could keep them in plain sight, then everybody would know to give us extra room on the road and everybody would be safer. Stupid nanny state.

/s

Bumble BeeJune 11, 2016 1:28 PM

Re: Guy La Douche

Is that some guy from Quebec who needs to take a shower? Must be a cousin to a certain "Dr." who posts on this forum occasionally.

Leon WolfesonJune 11, 2016 2:27 PM

@ David - Your argument means you'd need all residents, every layer of government's permission for every single GPS and app which directs anyone anywhere. Not to mention anyone who publishes maps.

AdamJune 12, 2016 6:45 AM

@Scott "It sounds like you're trying to maliciously harm others by blocking their legal access to public spaces. I think someone who does what you're suggesting is no different than someone who puts up fake "do not enter" signs."

No, I'm pointing possible attack vectors that someone could if they were so determined use to stop Waze routing traffic down their street. Personally I'd start with asking Waze nicely to change their algorithm / defaults and if that didn't work I'd consider the other options.

Guy La DoucheJune 12, 2016 2:54 PM

@Bumble Bee

Is that some guy from Quebec who needs to take a shower? Must be a cousin to a certain "Dr." who posts on this forum occasionally.

"Showers" are just an attempt by the genocidal Anglophones to destroy Québécois culture through the erasure of our glorious French body musk. Vive le oduer de liberté!

AlexJune 13, 2016 9:52 AM

People have been cutting through neighborhoods long before cars were even invented.

Don't like traffic in front of your house? Live in the country, live on a private street, get together with your neighbors to BUY the public street and convert it to be private (this can be done in Florida).

Indeed, I've long used shortcuts in residential areas before GPS navigation existed. In those dark days, upon encountering traffic it was common for drivers to just take the first left or right turn and start wandering through the neighborhood streets until they finally navigated around the backup.

Ideally, governments would USE the data provided by Waze and similar services, especially traffic delays, to adjust traffic light timing and improve infrastructure.

@Ned: Public transit is merely a city planner's wet dream, at least in many parts of America. Much of America was built after the 1940s, when the car was thought to be the future of transportation. Entire cities were built with the car in mind. Downtowns died, everything became decentralized. As a result, public transit isn't practical or even possible. Even in cities which have large bus systems, this decentralized layout completely screws over the idea.

Case in point: Let's say I want to take public transit from my home to the airport. I'm on the road ~250 nights/year so I actually don't have any real "home", just a few cheap condos I bought during the real estate crash. For the first two, there are NO public transit options available. At the first, there is indeed a bus stop across the street from the condo entrance. BUT no buses run to the airport. At the second, there is no bus service near (within 5 miles) of the condo. For the last, there IS bus service to the airport...but it would take about 3 hours. First, I'd have to walk 2.5 miles to the bus stop from the condo...dragging my luggage...in the hot, humid Florida sun. Not happening. Get on the bus... 4 stops later get off and walk 5 more minutes to a different bus stop, get on a new bus, 4 more stops... change buses at a bus terminal, wait 54 stops, change buses again at a different bus terminal,39 more stops, finally at the airport. These same bozos who run this system want to put in "light rail." What a joke.

Clive RobinsonJune 13, 2016 10:27 AM

@ Alex,

In the past I've done business with a large corp and had to go to their offices in Redmond Wash-State. I either stayed in a Hotel in Seattle down on the waterfront, or in one in "downtown Redmond".

Whilst I had to take expensive and more importantly "vomit inducing" town cars from Seattle to Redmond to be at their office at "Oh my gawd is it daylight" I walked when downtown.

However on each visit I'd take public transport from the airport to my hotel, it proved a little long winded but certainly very inexpensive and above all interesting and the people I spoke to were quite kind and helpfull to "a mad British gent".

Gerard van VoorenJune 13, 2016 11:04 AM

@ Alex,

I suggest you to read (or listen to) '$20 Per Gallon' by Christopher Steiner. This book will very likely give you a new view on how the US will look when oil prices go up, which eventually will happen.

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