SpotHero, Waze and Chicago solve navigation blackout issues on city’s multi-level roads


A new collaboration between SpotHero, Waze and the City of Chicago will allow drivers to experience seamless navigation through the city’s five miles of multi-level streets and tunnels, eliminating the connectivity problems associated with ‘urban canyons’.

The companies behind the SpotHero parking location and payment platform and the Waze crowdsourced navigation and traffic information application share a common mission to improve mobility worldwide. Drivers using the Waze and SpotHero apps or other GPS-based services have lost reception on Chicago’s lower roads in the past, hindering their ability to navigate to their destination accurately. This loss of connection created driver confusion and often led to traffic crashes and congestion. Extending connectivity underground has previously been a challenge in tunnels and underground roads worldwide, and was a particular issue on Chicago’s multi-level and often tunneled routes, such as Lower Wacker Drive, Lower Lower Wacker Drive, Lower Columbus Drive, Lower Michigan Avenue and other locations.

Lack of urban connectivity was a challenge that Waze engineer Gil Disatnik first encountered in 2014 after he lost GPS signal driving through a Boston tunnel and missed the turn to the airport. After months of developing a solution, Disatnik launched the Waze Beacons Program in 2016, and it is now live domestically in Boston and Pittsburgh in the USA, as well as internationally in Brazil, France, Italy, Israel and Czech Republic. Worldwide, more than 3,000 Waze Beacons have been installed on 46 miles (74km) of tunnels and roadways, and have powered connectivity for millions of drivers.

Through their new partnership in Chicago, SpotHero and Waze have overseen the deployment of more than 400 Waze Beacon devices that deliver Bluetooth-enabled connectivity in areas that GPS signals cannot reach. The beacons have been installed by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), and are now owned by the agency. They emit a wireless signal that can aid navigation and parking apps such as Waze and SpotHero, and are available for use by all developers looking to make it easier and safer to get around Chicago, putting an end to underground signal blackouts.

“Our mission is to empower drivers to get everywhere, more easily,” said Mark Lawrence, co-founder and CEO of SpotHero. “Through the launch of this innovative partnership, we’re excited to make driving and parking along Chicago’s lower roads more connected, reliable and convenient. As a Chicagoan at a locally-grown company, I’m energized by the shared commitment from Waze and the City of Chicago to improve mobility for everyone.”

Head of the Waze Beacons Program, Disatnik, commented, “We are pleased to bring the beacons to Chicago, one of the first US cities to adopt the technology. The benefits of seamless navigation can now be enjoyed underground by Waze app users. Our beacons technology is open and free to use by any other navigation app should they choose to, furthering our goal of empowering everyone to outsmart traffic together.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).