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.
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.
Google maps, waze, and apple maps all seem to think I can take the 405 to work and drive right through the fire without any problems. That's a problem.— Punk&Spice Latte (@sch4) December 6, 2017