Google Buys Popular Social Mapping App Waze to Fight Traffic

PHOTO: Waze, a social traffic app, has been acquired by Google.
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Google is now the owner of a lot more traffic information.

The search giant today announced that it has acquired Waze, the popular iPhone and Android mapping app that works based off of crowd-sourced traffic data.

"To help you outsmart traffic, today we're excited to announce we've closed the acquisition of Waze. This fast-growing community of traffic-obsessed drivers is working together to find the best routes from home to work, every day," Brian McClendon, the vice president of Google's geo team said in a blog post on the company's website this morning.

Google, however, plans to keep the company running independently, for now. Waze's product development team will remain in Israel and the application will remain independent, said Google and Waze's CEO, Noam Bardin, wrote in an separate post on Waze's website.

"Nothing practical will change here at Waze," Bardin said. "We will maintain our community, brand, service and organization -- the community hierarchy, responsibilities and processes will remain the same."

Google will, in turn, start to use Waze's traffic data, which is sourced from its more than 50 million users.

"We're excited about the prospect of enhancing Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google's search capabilities," McClendon said.

Waze allows users to input traffic levels within the app and talk to one another about traffic jams or on-the-road information, including where there are traffic cameras and police. Every driver is represented by a small, cartoonish icon on the digital maps.

Waze has been one of the most-sought-after start-ups in Silicon Valley, and Bardin said that the company "evaluated many options." Facebook and Apple have both been reported to have been interested in purchasing the company, though, according to All Things D and the Israeli paper Globes, the sticking point was staying independent and remaining in Israel.

Google has not disclosed the terms of the deal, but some media outlets reported that it had offered more than $1 billion for the popular service.

Google has the strongest mapping solutions of any of the technology companies. At its Google I/O conference last month it updated its maps apps and redesigned its Google Maps website. It also introduced traffic features, which, similar to Waze, will warn you of traffic incidents on your route in real-time and re-route you.

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