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Changing the Way We Get — and Give — Roadside Help

No flare gun necessary

How to send an SOS using Roadside Help in Waze

Under the Hood gives you an inside look at different parts of Waze — straight from the people working on them every day.

As Ads Chief of Staff at Waze, Dror Cohen makes it easy to send an SOS on the road using the Roadside Help feature.

Few things are more stressful than being stranded on the side of the road, especially when you don’t know who to call or how to fix the problem. We talked to Waze Ads Chief of Staff Dror Cohen to find out how the Roadside Help feature gets Wazers back up and running.

Putting “help” on the map

Before we introduced this feature four years ago, if your car broke down, you had to hope that a good samaritan would pull over to help. Or that a roadside service provider would be quick to pick up the phone. So we built the SOS feature to help our users quickly find contact info for a variety of services in the area, request help from fellow Wazers nearby, and even share their location with friends or family. We took a key part of Waze — reporting incidents — and re-worked it so you can do more than just report something. It gives you the power to ask for assistance or lend a hand to someone who needs it.

How the Waze SOS feature works:

How the Waze SOS feature works
  1. Fellow Wazers: Ask Wazers for help, no matter where you are.
  2. Emergency Call: Different countries have different emergency numbers, so they’re all listed in Waze to save drivers time when it matters most.
  3. Road Assistance: Get a list of nearby professional services you can contact from the app.

Help is on the way

In early discussions, we thought about how a lot of the reports in the app are for cars stopped on the shoulder. Why not tap into the spirit of Waze, which is all about looking out for each other, to give these drivers a hand?

In our first version release, there were only two options: request help from other drivers and provide information for roadside assistance partners, like AAA or Allstate. The Community actually suggested that we add emergency phone numbers for different countries, which was a great idea. Imagine driving in a new country and getting stuck. Chances are you might not know the local emergency number. Now, you can find them in Waze, wherever you are.

A different kind of Waze report

Sending an SOS is just like submitting any other Waze report, but with two key differences. For starters, you’re reporting something about yourself, not about what’s happening on the road around you.

It also prompts you to choose a specific action in addition to sharing your information. When you report on traffic, for example, you’re asked to use a scale to describe what’s happening: Is the congestion mild, moderate, or severe? With the SOS feature, you submit a report but can choose from three possible actions, or some combination of the three. For example, you can simply choose to ask other drivers for help, or you can request assistance from Wazers and call a pro. Each option has its own purpose and benefit, and it’s up to you how, when, and where to use them.

The universal sign for “help”

One of the first versions of the icon looked like a little tow truck; it was more in the style of a traditional roadside services symbol, so we took another crack at the design to better reflect the three elements of the feature. We went in the life buoy direction because it felt both instantly recognizable as an SOS symbol and easy to spot on the map.

Design evolution of the Roadside Help feature in Waze
Design evolution: From traditional roadside services to all the ways to send an SOS.

Waze SOS in action

It’s uplifting to see how Wazers around the world help each other with the SOS feature. In Israel, for example, there’s a volunteer group that looks for ways to support neighbors, including offering car services and repairs. When this feature came out, they loved it because they could easily scan the map for the SOS icon and see if anyone needed help on the road. They thought it was so great that they asked us to add them as a service provider in the app, even though their service is completely free.

Here’s how to get help if you have a flat tire, engine problems, or a dead battery using the Roadside Help feature
How to get back on the road…even if you’re not exactly sure how to change a tire.

Needless to say, the road is unpredictable. Things happen. Whether due to bad weather, a flat tire, an obstacle on the road or any number of situations, you never know when you might need help or be in a position to help someone else. Our hope is that the SOS feature gives drivers a little peace of mind and inspires Wazers to keep having each other’s backs out there.



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