Waze makes Google Assistant your hands-free copilot

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The Google Assistant continues its spread, with Google’s much-appreciated Waze app adding support for the voice technology in the name of better avoiding traffic – or reporting it. Waze relies on driver reports of traffic congestion, road issues, and other factors that might affect motorists, but until now it has demanded you take your hands off the wheel in order to submit them.

Waze’s interface for that is straightforward, and there’s even a simplified version available for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Today, though, Waze is adding tight integration with the Google Assistant, for even simpler reporting.

With the update, drivers will be able to say “Hey Google, report traffic” in order to file a report of congestion with Waze. The app will automatically log the new information, pinpointed to the current position. You’ll also be able to report objects in the road by voice, temporary speed cameras, and all the other potential hazards that Waze supports.

Even if you’re not part of the community that contributes to Waze’s real-time data, there’s still functionality from the Google Assistant that could be useful. You’ll be able to ask for most of the app’s features by voice, Google says, including asking for a route. “Hey Google, avoid tolls,” for example, will map out a route with as minimal paid roads, bridges, and tunnels as is possible.

In the same way, you’ll be able to ask the Assistant for alternate routes by voice. Currently, the Google Assistant is available on Waze on Android phones in the US, though initially only when they’re set to English language. It’s rolling out from today.

Minimizing the degree to which drivers are potentially distracted is a big area of focus right now. Increasingly complex dashboard technology has added active safety features, streaming media, and apps to modern vehicles. However, it has also paved the way for possibly overwhelming the vehicle’s operators when they’re meant to be focusing on the road.

Voice control systems have been fairly commonplace on vehicles for some years now, though they tend to be fairly rudimentary. Often they can require drivers memorizing certain key phrases or specific command words, for instance, and of course they typically only control the car’s native systems, not a third-party app like Waze. Only in recent years have cars from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and others looked to features like cloud-processing for natural language recognition.

In parallel, though, we’ve seen moves from third-party companies – like Google – to bring their own voice recognition into the car as an upgrade or an alternative. Google and Anker launched the Roav Bolt earlier this year, for example, an aftermarket Bluetooth in-car adapter which brings the Assistant to an existing vehicle.

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