Waze Beacons eradicate ‘GPS blindness’ in Boston’s tunnel network

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Following the installation of new beacons, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) Highway Division says there will be improved navigational service inside Boston’s tunnels for users of the Waze crowdsourced traffic information smartphone application.

With the assistance of Waze, MassDOT has completed the installation of more than 850 navigational beacons within the tunnels of the Boston Metropolitan Highway System to improve GPS reception in areas where it is difficult to get a signal. Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app, which enables users to access and share real-time traffic and road information, while offering them the quickest route to their destination. The company’s Beacons Program in Boston’s tunnels will lead to seamless navigation underground by providing data to the drivers with the Waze app who are passing through the 7.1-mile long (11.4km) network.

Provided to the MassDOT Highway Division at no cost, the Waze Beacons transmit data to drivers’ navigation apps, but do not collect any information. These beacons also mean all GPS providers can incorporate the Waze beacons solution and have unrestricted and no-cost service. The beacons have been installed in the Ted Williams (1.6 miles), Sumner (1 mile), Callahan (1 mile), and O’Neill (3.5 miles) Tunnels, with deployment taking place during pre-scheduled tunnel lane closures.

The beacons are cost-effective, battery-operated, low-energy microcontroller hardware that are installed on tunnel walls. Powered by Eddystone beacon technology, the beacons have Waze-specific configurations to transmit messages directly to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, and are used as an alternative to GPS signal. Waze beacons are FCC and CE approved, with approximately 42 beacons required per mile of tunnel.

“The newly installed beacons inside our tunnel areas will improve safety and the customer experience, because the users of Waze will have a continuous and uninterrupted signal,” said MassDOT’s acting highway administrator, Jonathan Gulliver. “Anyone in a motor vehicle using Waze to navigate before they enter the tunnels in Boston will continue to get navigational help, as the signal to their mobile device will continue to be constant and strong.”

Gil Disatnik, head of Waze Beacons, commented, “Tunnel blindness continues to be a real pain point for drivers and an obstacle that can increase traffic and even worse, crashes. We are fortunate that in helping to solve this problem for our community of drivers we have reliable municipal partners like MassDOT to encourage the adoption of our beacons to create safer roads in their communities.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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