Google's Waze Navigation Rerouting AI Directed Drivers Through Raging California Wildfires

Motorists should take caution when driving in the direction of California's wildfires, even when using a navigation app that is continually updated. Case in point, users of Waze and other similar navigation apps report that driving directions have pointed them squarely to where the wildfires are raging, including roads that have been closed down or otherwise blocked off because of the fires.

California Wildfire
The aftermath of a wildfire in 2015 (Image Source: Flickr via Bob Dass)

Apps like Waze use a combination of artificial intelligence and driver input to stay up to date with current conditions. In theory, these apps should warn drivers of dangerous areas and offer a different route to their destination. And they do, eventually. The problem is, it can can a bit of time before that information is properly inputted and relayed to drivers who are relying on their app to get them from point A to point B.

"We worked really hard Wednesday afternoon to get our maps up to date and accurate," Waze spokesperson Chelsea Russo told WBIR, a local NBC News affiliate.

Waze Wildfires

One of the handy features of Waze, which is owned by Google, is that it helps motorists shave time off their commute by avoiding traffic jams, construction, and other things that can slow a driver down. However, it is sometimes directing motorists to neighborhoods where fires are blazing and where there is a lot of smoke.

This very thing happened to a USA Today reporter on Wednesday. The reporter had sought an alternative route to the Getty Center museum, because the wildfires closed off the normal route along Interstate 405, heading north. Waze pointed the reporter towards backstreets in Los Angeles, on a route that was blocked off by a police officer because it led directly into a fire engulfed area. Waze and other apps had not yet reflected this, as noted by several users on Twitter.
Navigation apps are continually being updated, but the bottom line is that drivers should take caution when following directions that take them in the general area of the wildfires. Plan accordingly, as you may need find yourself seeking out an alternate, longer route to your destination.