When Google bought Waze back in 2013 they probably weren't thinking about saving lives in Europe but that may be a happy side effect, thanks to a partnership between the mapping application and the European Emergency Number Association (EENA). The data-sharing partnership was announced via the EENA's press website on April 5th, with a Europe-wide pilot project being started sometime after April 30th. The pilot will be conducted at a total of four pilot sites and emergency services organizations who are interested in participating can file an application up until April 30.
The project itself is fairly straight forward. Emergency services organizations in Europe will be able to integrate crowd-sourced traffic and incident data from Waze into their own systems. According to the EENA, doing so is expected to drastically improve emergency response operations and the pilot program will test three different scenarios to show that. First, when people notify Waze about any accident on the road, emergency response crews will also receive the alerts. That should allow those crews to respond more quickly, even if the incident has already been reported by other means – presumably because a more precise location for the where the services are required will be known. The other side to that is the second scenario being tested. Emergency support services will also be able to use Waze to help citizens avoid unnecessary delays, by notifying them directly with the app about incidents in real time. Finally, vehicles used by emergency response organizations will be able to use Waze data to plan better and faster routes, thanks to both the application's real-time traffic data and data provided by the app about planned road closures. That should significantly reduce response times.
The idea behind the project hinges on how the Google-owned mapping application works. Waze users can contribute traffic and road data both actively, when reporting an incident, and passively when driving around with the app turned on. Obviously, when emergency services are required, the situation is most often urgent. Any project which can potentially create a significant reduction in the turnaround time between a report and the arrival of help is guaranteed to save lives.