Who’s Behind the Magic of the Waze Map?
Short answer: a lot of people who love to help
Under the Hood gives you an inside look at different parts of Waze — straight from the people working on them every day.
As Communities Team Manager, I’ve been working with map editors for four and a half years now. To the rest of the world, the map might seem like something really simple that just shows up when you put in an address. But behind every Waze route is a community of volunteer editors getting you to your destination as efficiently as possible. They add roads, mark real-time road closures, and map new features like lane guidance, all for the sake of helping their fellow Wazers. There are many moving parts behind-the-scenes, but anyone can be part of the magic.
Waze Map Editors: The heroes behind the map
To put in brief terms, map editors build, fix, and protect the map. But they do a lot more than that. There are tens of thousands of people from around the world in places like Brazil, the U.S., Europe, APAC, and Israel who volunteer their time. While any Wazer can report real-time alerts like traffic or hazards on the road, only map editors can make updates like new streets or changes in turning lanes.
How people (usually) become Waze map editors
Anyone can become a map editor. A lot of people start because they see an error on the map — maybe their address is missing, they want to add a business location, or they got a route that didn’t make sense to them. They’ll report the issue, and once they learn they actually have the power to make the change, they take the initiative. That’s the common thread between many of our editors: When they see a problem, they take the extra step of fixing it for themselves and for other people in the community.
Intro to the map editing tool
The first place a new editor goes is the editing platform. If you open it to fix something minor, it can be a little overwhelming because there’s so much you can do.
The first time you log in, you’ll see tutorial videos and resources to help you navigate the platform. Then you’ll see the street network where you can make basic edits like adding street numbers or editing roads in your neighborhood.
Finding answers with Wazeopedia
Each type of road — freeway, ramp, major highway, primary street, and more — has a different color and mapping system so Waze’s routing algorithm can process it. The editor platform is a powerful tool, but Wazeopedia is key to learning about what it all means and how it works.
Matching with a mentor
The Waze forum is a great place to connect with other editors and get immersed in the community pretty quickly.
Usually, another map editor will ask if you need help and point you to the right resources. Some of our most experienced editors become mentors. They answer questions, show you how to use the tools, and hold one-on-one sessions to show you the ropes. They can help connect you with the rest of the community, too. If you have questions, there’s a chat available, and someone is almost always there to answer.
Our editors are great at helping newcomers feel welcome. A lot of people start out with the intention of just editing the map and end up finding awesome people with shared interests and making friends.
Moving through the ranks
New editors typically want to fix a specific, one-off problem, but they need to have the right permissions. That’s one of the ways the community protects the map.
Since most edits aren’t reviewed before they go live, the map uses a permissioning system with two types of permissions to ensure accuracy. The first kind of permissions is granted to new users, who can only edit areas they drive in, which means they’re just contributing their local knowledge.
The second kind involves locked levels, ranging from one through six. Everyone starts out at level one and can only make edits that are available to level one editors, like making changes within a one-mile radius. Level six editors, on the other hand, may have country-wide access. When you look at a street in the editing platform, you’ll see a lock, which shows the level you need to achieve to edit it. As you make more edits, you earn access to higher levels, which come with more permissions.
How long until Waze map edits show up?
After you make an edit, it doesn’t go live immediately. Once a day, we run a process called the “tile builder.” Essentially, it translates the changes in the editor to the Waze map. The tile builder takes a few hours, but for the most part, new edits go live the same day it runs. There’s a lot of excitement around the Waze Status, a blog that shares when the map tiles are updated and shows how recently those updates went live.
Test driving and fine-tuning new features
Once an area is fully mapped, that’s often just the beginning. A big part of what the editors do is what we call “map enrichment.” They add new features like toll pricing and railroad crossings that help drivers anticipate the road ahead.
Before new features become public, community members test how they work. In the early testing phases, they start mapping and trying to understand how it affects what’s displayed on the map. Then, they prepare guidance for the entire community so they can make the necessary updates in their local area.
Now that Waze offers lane guidance that shows drivers the best lane to be in based on upcoming turns and directions, our editors map those, too. The effort started on Wazeopedia. Community Champs published an article on how to map lanes and included examples and screenshots to help people learn. Once the lead editors understand the feature, it’s easy to teach the broader community how to map it.
The community is organized and disciplined when it comes to keeping the map up-to-date. Their contributions are what makes the map so valuable, including their collaboration with everyday drivers on the road. Any time Wazers report an issue on the map, the editors are the ones checking it out and working on a solution. Next time you see a problem or something you want to add, remember that you have the power to fix it. There’s a whole community ready to help you learn how.
Ready to rise through the ranks of the Waze Community?
Start your map editor journey here. Check out the Community Wazeopedia for helpful tips, or watch one of our Master Class videos on map editing to learn the ropes. For friendly advice from other Wazers, you can always swing by this forum for editors with friendly Wazers who can answer questions.