Homeowners wake up to find themselves trapped in a pop-up freeway hell that makes it nearly impossible to exit their driveways. The transportation officials and the council members and the whining neighborhood associations are mere spectators. The gamers won. The algorithm is God. Technology has spoken, and you know your supporting role. The unheralded superhero in this movie, giving every Angeleno the power to take back the streets.
Speeding through residential neighborhoods gave hundreds of thousands of Angelenos something they’d scarcely known in this famously gridlocked city—the sense that they were in control. The Waze founders were geniuses. Waze did save you precious minutes…for a while.
The minutes or seconds you might save by Wazing transformed dozens of peaceful L.A. neighborhoods into loud, exhaust-fumed residential gridlock. Drivers careened down local streets steeper than double-diamond ski slopes. Trucks got pinned on corners. Citizens fought back, reporting phony crashes and traffic jams in a desperate counterattack. Not so fast. A Waze spokesman, oblivious to the irony, reflexively sneered that “a group of neighbors can’t game the system.”
The headlines from that long-ago December captured the first wave of what Krekorian termed “the ultimate failure of laissez-faire, libertarian thinking,” what happens when corporations wreak havoc on communities for profit: “Locals Upset at Google’s Waze for Sending Traffic to Their Streets”…
But John Nash, the brilliant economist and hero of the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind, demonstrated that when you give people “selfish solutions” in competitive, “noncooperative games,” everyone loses. Counter to the hyped PR tech narrative, Waze, Google, and Apple were all “steering toward a Nash equilibrium, and that is not a good thing,” argues Bayen. By promoting the myth that their apps would get you there faster, the tech firms were effectively and collectively creating a perfect traffic storm for everyone.