Waze shows that car traffic has already returned to its pre-containment level

by Kelvin
Waze shows that car traffic has already returned to its pre-containment level

Waze publishes a dashboard showing the effect of containment on the number of kilometers traveled by car, in several cities and countries around the world. Car traffic is returning to its pre-containment level, barely a month after the start of deconfinement.

In full containment, Google and Apple published dashboards describing the effect of travel restrictions on people’s habits. The deviations from the normal have turned out to be spectacular, with falls in the use of public places and transport by 70 to 90%. Including in France, as we can see with the curves devoted to cities like Paris, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse.


It is to this exercise that Waze has also complied, the famous GPS application which not only makes it possible to establish a route, but also to inform other motorists in the event of unforeseen events on the road (traffic jam, accident, deviation, etc.). Its own dashboard was put online on June 11, 2020, said Benoît Tabaka, director of public policies at Google France.

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coronavirus Waze

coronavirus Waze

Dramatic fall and gradual recovery

Unsurprisingly, the metrics collected by Waze match Google’s charts and Apple. A collapse in car traffic was observed around mid-March, since it was on this date, precisely the 17th, that traffic was no longer allowed without a valid reason – food shopping, jobs that could not be done. remote practice, medical visits or even legal summons.

If the effect of confinement in France can be seen at first glance, we also notice a significant recovery around mid-May: it is indeed during this period that the first phase of deconfinement took place, followed by another on June 2 – its impact on traffic is not yet shown on the table, as it stops around June 5. However, on this date, a virtual return to normal can be observed.

A close eye will notice that the curve shows a slight inflection between March 17 and May 11. However, it is difficult to give an explanation: does it reflect the fact that professional travel exemptions have been used more and more, or that a certain relaxation has taken place on the part of the population? Maybe it’s a bit of both, as well as other factors not listed here.

In fact, car traffic is back to its pre-containment level, whether in France or elsewhere in the world. This is not necessarily positive news, from an environmental and health point of view: pollution is back as before. The next world, which was fantasized this spring, does not seem to be happening. In any case, this is not the one that is happening.

Beyond the Franco-French observation, the dashboard also offers the possibility of making comparisons between countries and thus to have a small idea, thanks to the curves, of the different policies to fight against the coronavirus. The variations that can be seen on such and such a date are due to the specific health reality of each country, since the crisis did not take place at the same time in the world.

waze coronavirus france singapore

waze coronavirus france singapore

Anonymized data

A smaller scale analysis at the city level is also provided. In the case of France, Waze has amassed vehicle location information for Paris, Lille, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux. This geolocation is made possible by the very nature of Waze, an application that needs to know the location of its users in order to orient them correctly.

However, the company – which is a subsidiary of Google – specifies that the data has been previously anonymized and aggregated, so that individual confidentiality is not called into question, explains the company: “”

Waze says it uses differential privacy. It is this approach that Google follows, which would allow it to solve the squaring of the circle: to collect personal data while preserving the private life. A niche on which is also placed Apple. This adds “noise” to the data, to have information that is useful in general, but which cannot be traced to a person.