Waze Beacons: the World’s first Scalable, Affordable Solution to Power Navigation in Tunnels

You’re driving in your car, following instructions from your favorite navigation tool, and you head into a tunnel. Without a moment’s notice, you lose GPS signal, and you’ve missed the exit. And as a result, maybe even your flight or appointment. Sigh.

This happens all the time (unfortunately), as you lose GPS satellite signal within underground tunnels, thanks to concrete and environmental factors. Not only are we robbed of our ability to route or find the right underground exit, we’re left without guidance on traffic or oncoming hazards, leaving drivers effectively “blind.”

For Waze Engineer Gil Disatnik, aka the “Waze Mole,” it all started back in the Summer 2014. He got lost while driving from Logan Airport to downtown Boston, Massachusetts, after losing the GPS signal in the city’s main tunnel. But lucky for us, he saw this as an opportunity. With a pre-existing passion for radio and microcontrollers, Gil started tinkering obsessively over how to tackle this challenge and took it on as a side project...on top of his full-time role at Waze.

Gil and his team have since developed the Waze Beacon program: the first scalable, affordable solution in the world to power navigation in tunnels. Installed on tunnel walls, Waze Beacons are cost-effective, battery operated, low-energy “microcontrollers” that have Waze-specific configurations – powered by Eddystone – to transmit messages directly to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, empowering Waze or other navigation providers to offer real-time routes and alerts.

Waze worked with Bluvision to create custom beacon hardware designed to suit moving vehicles and solve historic, tunnel-specific location challenges. This makes Waze the first navigation app to accurately route drivers, in real time, as they navigate through tunnels where Waze Beacons are installed.

How does it work? All the driver needs to do is simply turn on smartphone Bluetooth functionality within Waze Beacons-supported tunnels...and voila, never miss an in-tunnel exit again!

This also means:
  • Fewer collisions caused by last-minute lane changes 
  • More accurate estimated times of arrival (ETAs) 
  • Live updates on traffic 
  • A heads up on incidents or accidents from within the tunnel 
In other words, an end to tunnel-blindness!

In an effort to yield safer roads for all drivers, the program is open to Waze Connected Citizens Program municipal partners, other municipalities and private tollway and road organizations. Other navigation services can also use the program technology free of charge, empowering driver tunnel navigation with the same Bluetooth support.

The Waze Beacons Program has four pilot partners including three Waze Connected Citizens municipal partners: PennDOT (Pittsburgh, PA); Sanef (Paris); and Rio de Janeiro COR with partner CET-Rio. The fourth partner is Carmelton (Haifa, Israel). If your organization is interested in joining the program, learn more about how to apply here.

Waze Beacons are currently available in select tunnels throughout Pittsburgh and Haifa, Israel - soon Paris and Rio de Janeiro.


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