Don’t get me wrong, Waze is fantastic, it will show the fastest route to drive to your destination. But it shows the same route to every driver. The car in front of us is using Waze: I can see their screen. And so is the car next to us and the car behind them and behind that one and so on. “There are 3,567 Wazers in your area”. Cool, so now we are all stuck together in the same traffic jam.
The problem is that in every situation where traffic is heavy Waze will take everyone on the same route. It’s a shame because Waze actually calculates a second and third and often a fourth and fifth best routes, but nobody will ever chose a second best option, even if it means a delay of only a few minutes.
Here is the classic economic “tragedy of the commons” where since no one owns the fish in the pond, everyone over-fishes and soon there are no fish left in the pond.
And why should anyone do so? The answer is that if traffic was spread on all the possible alternatives it would actually flow. Some drivers will be on a faster route and some on a slower one, but they would be actually driving not be standing or slugging in traffic bumper to bumper. And the overall transition time would decrease for the total of the drivers on the roads.
And think about the benefits in terms of pollution, tires and breaks wear and tear, minor accidents, road and gas consumption.
Algorithms have shown that a simple reduction of 10% in the usage during rush hours will practically eliminate traffic jams.
A fair mechanism allocating drivers on ALL the routes will spread traffic and improve quality of driving for everyone. And it will eliminate the need to build new roads and reduce the spending in maintenance, repairs and accidents, making traffic more economical and safe for everyone.