NYPD tells Google that Waze makes driving in the city unsafe

Cheryl Sanders
February 10, 2019

While the NYPD's letter primarily focused on Waze supposedly assisting drunk drivers, in a statement to The Verge, Google pointed out the feature is mostly for reporting speed traps. It remains to be seen what steps will be taken.

The crowd-sourced app allows motorists to pinpoint "visible" or "hidden" police activity, and cops say the function makes their jobs harder.

Waze maintains the police icon shows "general police presence" and not DWI checkpoints specifically.

The posting of such data for public consumption is irresponsible because it exclusively serves to assist impaired and intoxicated drivers in evading checkpoints and encouraging reckless driving.

"We want these things publicised", she said, because "one of the major efforts is education".

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sobriety checkpoints reduce the risk of crashes caused by drunk driving by about 20-percent.

In the letter sent to Google last weekend, the NYPD demanded the firm "immediately" remove the DWI reporting function in the Waze app.

Some New Yorkers, however, disagreed.

Former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck complained in December 2014 that Waze could be 'misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community'. Both men pointed to news reports that the man who killed the two NY police officers had posted screenshots from Waze on social media. The NYPD is none too pleased about the sneaky drunk driving hack: On Saturday, it hit Google with a sternly-worded letter, accusing the tech giant of tacitly undermining the city's goal of Vision Zero, a NY free of traffic fatalities. It lets people report accidents, traffic jams, and speed and police traps, while its online map editor gives drivers updates on roads, landmarks, house numbers, and the cheapest nearby fuel.

"Using crowdsourcing doesn't stop you from breaking the law", he said. "That's a direct undermining of the rule of law".

The NYPD seems particularly incensed by the public listings of DWI checkpoints, which is where police will randomly pull over drivers in a selected area and check to see if drivers are sober. But now they have a problem to contend with: the Waze app. It insisted the app's capabilities should not be allowed and could even be considered illegal.

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