Google-owned navigation application Waze is gaining new features ahead of the holiday season, and they’re some of the biggest in its history. In a blog post on Wednesday, the Waze team announced a new Motorcycle mode, hands-free voice commands, and support for carpool routes.
The most popular of the bunch is likely to be the new hotword detection feature. It’s sort of like the Google Assistant’s “OK Google” phrase: When it’s enabled (Settings -> Sound & voice -> Talk to Waze -> and toggle Listen for “OK Waze” on), you can say, “OK Waze”, followed by a voice command. It’s an improvement on Waze’s existing Voice Commands suite, which already let you preview a route, send road reports, and add pit stops by shouting at your phone’s microphone. But before the update, you had to start Waze’s “listening mode” by tapping a shortcut or gesturing with your fingers. Now, it’s an entirely hands-free process.
Hotword detection isn’t all that’s new. Cyclists will appreciate two new motorocycle avatars to choose from, plus a new Motorcycle mode that’s optimized for two-wheelers. After specifying your vehicle type (Settings -> Vehicle Type -> Motorcycles), you’ll get specialized routing that’s optimized by Waze’s crowdsourced data. Specifically, you’ll be directed to routes where motorcyclists are riding, and you’ll get a more accurate estimated arrival time.
The last new feature is support for carpool lanes, or high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes. In 22 markets across the United States and Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, Waze will determine the optimal route for users driving together with friends or co-workers, and will serve up additional navigational options and arrival times. (Enable it by heading to Settings > Navigation > Add Toll/HOV pass and selecting from the list of pre-populated passes, and by specifying your vehicle type in Settings > Navigation > Vehicle Type). Waze says it’s a first for navigation apps.
The new and improved Waze will roll out to Android and iOS users over the coming weeks.