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Waze, the crowd-sourced mobile navigation app, has talked about its service as a kind of social network for drivers. But the service hasn’t actually helped users connect that much until now.
Now, with an update to version 3.5, Waze users on iOS (s aapl) and Android (s goog) can sign-in with Facebook (s fb) and see when friends are navigating to the same place and get their estimated time of arrival. Users can send a pick-up request to another user, allowing the recipient to easily navigate to that location. The sender can also track their ride on a map and see their ETA, even without having the Waze app.
Users can also proactively share their location with others by sending a link, which allows anyone to track their progress without having to use the Waze app. For the privacy conscious, Waze offers users the option to go invisible.
Waze has been on fire lately, thanks in part to the botched roll out of Maps on iOS 6. It now reaches 29 million users, up from 13 million six months ago and 26 million just a month ago. Di-Ann Eisnor, Waze’s VP of platforms and partnerships, told me that the company probably picked up an extra 1 million users thanks to iOS 6 and Apple CEO Tim Cook’s endorsement of Waze a Maps alternative.
She said the latest improvements to Waze are designed to help users be more efficient with the system and assist them in connecting through Waze. That’s how many people already use Waze — to pick each other up and meet with friends and contacts who are out and about.
“This is the most social we’ve ever been and the most we’ve dared to go,” said Eisnor. “We wanted to make sure it’s about the driving experience, not another way to look at Facebook. People are already driving with Waze, this is just going to make it much more social.”