Incident 22: Waze Navigates Motorists into Wildfires

Description: Waze, a Google-owned directions app, led California drivers into the 2017 Skirball wildfires as they tried to evacuate the area.
Alleged: Google developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed Motorists.

Suggested citation format

Olsson, Catherine. (2017-12-06) Incident Number 22. in McGregor, S. (ed.) Artificial Intelligence Incident Database. Responsible AI Collaborative.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
22
Report Count
22
Incident Date
2017-12-06
Editors
Sean McGregor

Tools

New ReportNew ReportDiscoverDiscover

CSET Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

Google-owned directions app Waze sent drivers toward areas impacted by the Skirball wildfires in Los Angeles late December 2017. The app looks at current traffic patterns and suggests routes that avoid major congestion. In the case of mass evacuations, as were implemented for these fires, congestion was seen on the evacuation routes leading the app to direct drivers toward the empty roads. These roads were empty because the area ablaze and impassable. Waze/Google engineers typically work with departments of transportation on traffic pattern changes to augment its directions, however in the case of a quickly-developed emergency, the app did not provide safe driving directions.

Short Description

Waze, a Google-owned directions app, led California drivers into the 2017 Skirball wildfires as they tried to evacuate the area.

Severity

Negligible

Harm Type

Harm to physical health/safety

AI System Description

Waze, a directions app meant to decide what route from point A to point B would allow the shortest travel time. Waze also shows potential car accidents, police activity, and other hazards to consider while driving.

System Developer

Google

Sector of Deployment

Transportation and storage

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition

AI Techniques

Interpreting traffic patterns, travel time estimation

AI Applications

Direction suggestions, recommendation engine,

Location

Los Angeles, CA

Named Entities

Waze, Google, Los Angeles Department of Transportation

Technology Purveyor

Waze, Google

Beginning Date

12-2017

Ending Date

12-2017

Near Miss

Near miss

Intent

Accident

Lives Lost

No

Infrastructure Sectors

Transportation

Data Inputs

Traffic patterns, human operator input

Incidents Reports

California residents looking to avoid routes that were full of hazards from the wildfires burning across the southern region of the state were getting directions that accomplished the opposite of that this week. As fires burned and spread rapidly due to the Santa Ana winds, dry brush, and lack of rain, navigation apps struggled to keep up with which roads were safe to use and which weren’t during the evacuation process.

Photos and videos from the region show flames that look almost like lava covering hills and at the side of the road. Open land is burning as are neighborhoods, including some of the wealthiest in Los Angeles county. The fires were so large and causing so much smoke that they were actually visible from space.

The Google-developed Waze app, uses information from users about traffic, road hazards, construction and other route obstructions, and relies heavily on real time reports and frequently updated data. As the fire spread, the maps weren’t updating quickly enough for users who were trying to avoid the fires.

Some users were tweeting that the app was actually sending them to parts of California that were burning, rather than giving them directions to get around the hazardous areas. This could be due to the fact that those roads were clear with little to no traffic, otherwise perfect driving conditions, except for the smoke and fire around them that is.

The company tweeted on Thursday that it was working with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and other Waze users to mark road closures and shelters along routes.

The issue wasn’t specific to Waze either, drivers using Apple Maps and Google Maps were having similar issues.

A USA Today reporter who was covering the fires and looking for a route to the Getty Center was directed right into a neighborhood in Bel Air that was in flames, USA Today reported.

To help the apps create more accurate and safe routes, users who find that they’re being directed along dangerous routes can report a problem with the app. To do this in the Google maps app, select the “more” icon in the upper left corner near the search bar, it looks like three lines stacked up. Then select “Help & Feedback” and then “Send Feedback” there you can report an issue with the data in the app. For Apple Maps, select the information button on the home screen and then “Report an issue.” For Waze, open the app and hit “reports” and then “map issue.”

Waze, Google Maps Send California Residents Straight Into Wildfires

Law enforcement vehicles patrol a neighborhood in a mandatory evacuation area on Dec. 5 in Ventura. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Jacking up prices for essentials during a state of emergency is illegal, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra reminded Californians as wildfires continued to burn this week.

“As our brave firefighters are working to contain the blazes and as many Californians are being evacuated, it should not be open season on innocent victims,” Becerra said in a statement Wednesday. “Our state’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on housing, gas, food and other essential supplies.”

California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10%, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. (There are some exceptions, including a significant increase in the price of labor or materials for the business.) Those who violate the law could face one year of imprisonment, and/or a fine up to $10,000.

Firefighters attempt to contain Bel-Air blaze ahead of the strong winds expected Thursday night

The Los Angeles Police Department is reportedly telling motorists to avoid using navigation apps when attempting to circumvent the region's wildfires.

According to the Los Angeles Times, authorities fear that these programs will guide motorists "onto more open routes -- in this case, streets in the neighborhoods that are on fire."

However, when Roadshow reached the LAPD for comment on Thursday, they initially acknowledged that they were still investigating how to advise motorists on this issue. A subsequent conversation I had with officer Mike Lopez, LAPD public information officer, offered some clarification: "We're not saying not to use your navigation, but [we advise] to use them with caution anywhere near the fires." Lopez reiterated fears that some programs may lead motorists directly into danger's path.

Some navigation apps, like Google's Waze, provide the ability for users to call out road hazards including weather, heavy traffic, vehicles and objects in the road, or even request roadside assistance. Many, however, do not.

Lopez acknowledged that certain navigation apps may be smarter than others when it comes to dealing with emergency situations like the LA wildfires, but he urged caution when using all apps, and said that the LAPD would not endorse using a particular program over another in such instances.

Enlarge Image Waze

I also spoke with Sergeant Frank Preciado of the LAPD, and he noted that officers are strategically posted at the junction of key ingress and egress roads to prevent motorists from inadvertently driving into the path of the wildfires. Above all, local authorities are urging motorists to heed the instructions of police and fire officials, including when it comes to obeying roadblocks.

According to a Google spokesperson reached for comment:

"To provide access to accurate and useful transportation information, we use algorithmic and manual methods to account for everyday and emergency road closures. These road closures also appear on our LA Fire Crisis Map, embedded as part of our SOS Alert on Search. We'll continue to update the map in real time to address the changing conditions on the ground and help Los Angelenos get around safely."

In an email to Roadshow, Waze spokesperson, Terry Wei, said, "We are the only resource that will have real-time routing, up-to-date evacuation routes and information on open resources like gas stations, etc." According to Waze data, around 110 road segments are closed, and there are 16 shelters available in 16 area cities. Wei also noted that Waze users "can search the word 'Help' to find their nearest shelter, or pan on the map and click on the shelter icon."

Apple did not immediately return a request for comment.

But if social media postings are to be believed, even Waze was at least occasionally befuddled by the region's fast-moving fires. A USA Today article published Thursday afternoon quotes several social media users as saying that Waze was among the mapping programs that failed to recognize the 405 Freeway's fire-related closure. App users experienced problematic routing that directed them toward fire-endangered roads both Wednesday and Thursday, according to the newspaper.

Southern California is being wracked by wildfires that are destroying homes, businesses and impacting travel. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the new Skirball fire near Bel-Air has reportedly grown to 475 acres alone, and triggered the 405 Freeway's temporary closure. The fire is estimated to only be 5% contained, and stiff winds are expected to fan the flames today, making firefighters' jobs more difficult.

Come to think of it why aren't @CaltransDist7, @LAPDHQ, @911LAPD, or others directly editing the @Waze maps directly in real time to help mitigate these issues? They know which streets are closed/impassable and this could be a great help instead of a hindrance. — Chris Aldrich (@ChrisAldrich) December 7, 2017

Some auto industry watchers are looking at the LA fires and wondering aloud on social media if natural disasters like these could impact the future adoption of self-driving cars. Others are curious if technological steps are being taken to systematically enable local authorities to update mapping services in real-time with relevant information during emergencies.

In September, amidst an altogether different type of natural disaster, Google's Waze Carpool app was turned on in states affected by Hurricane Harvey to enable residents to find ridesharing opportunities. The company also started a Facebook page to crowdsource information on road closures and hazards in the area at the time.

First published Dec. 7, 9:05 a.m. PT.

Update, 10:15 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect new statements made by members of the LAPD.

Update, 10:45 a.m.: Google statement added.

Update, 11:15 a.m.: Waze statement added.

Update, 4:25 p.m.: USA Today article references added.

California wildfires: Police warn nav apps could put you in danger

There are currently multiple fires raging across Southern California, one of which forced the notoriously clogged 405 Freeway in Los Angeles to shut down.

Big fires force people to find new routes — including people using apps like Waze and Google Maps.

SEE ALSO: Wildfires lead to hellish scenes for Los Angeles commuters

The problem? Those apps look for roads without many cars on them, and try to route you there. Which is great when you're trying to avoid run-of-the-mill traffic. But not when the roads are clear because of nearby fires.

"The Los Angeles Police Department asked drivers to avoid navigation apps, which are steering users onto more open routes — in this case, streets in the neighborhoods that are on fire," the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday night.

On Thursday morning, a Waze spokesperson told Mashable that the Google-owned company had worked with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) to close around 110 dangerous road segments on the app. It's also providing drivers "up-to-date evacuation routes" and information on nearby shelters.

"The Los Angeles Police Department asked drivers to avoid navigation apps, which are steering users onto more open routes — in this case, streets in the neighborhoods that are on fire." https://t.co/I3sICDIF4A — Joel Rubin (@joelrubin) December 7, 2017

Google Maps and Waze are by far the most popular navigation apps in the App Store.

More 700 homes have been evacuated due to the Skirball fire in densely populated Bel-Air, with four homes destroyed and 11 damaged as of Thursday morning, according to the Times. North of Los Angeles in Ventura, flames have burned 96,000 acres and damaged at least 150 structures, forcing the evacuation of around 50,000 people.

LAPD says navigation apps steered people to neighborhoods on fire

Emergency crews in Southern California block a roadway as flames spread from a wind-driven brush fire. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

Southern California residents and visitors fleeing the wildfires raging around Los Angeles are contending with a new problem — mapping apps that are reportedly directing them towards areas that are on fire.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is warning area residents and visitors that apps that offer driving directions are sometimes suggesting routes through regions that are ablaze, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Apps such as Waze and Google Maps take traffic into account when calculating routes and will often suggest that drivers take roads that appear less busy. However, they apparently aren't calculating in the fact that those routes may be free because of the fire danger.

The LAPD is reportedly warning those in the area not to use any navigation apps.

The out-of-control fires are blazing in parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and nearly 200,000 people have been affected by mandatory evacuation orders. Winds of up to 80 miles per hour are exacerbating the conditions, and a state of emergency has been declared.

The fires have periodically closed major routes in the area, including Interstate 405 and Highway 101, making it more difficult for people to get around. The California Department of Transportation is providing an updated map that shows the locations of the areas affected by the fire.

LA Police say mapping apps are directing people to areas on fire

Users of popular navigation apps like Waze are warning the services directed them to neighborhoods where wildfires forced closures and evacuations.

The issue stems from the way apps like Waze help users avoid commute nightmares such as heavy traffic or construction. Largely reliant on information supplied by other drivers, when the Google-owned app notices gridlock on a user's route, it will reroute the driver to quieter streets — even they're empty because drivers had fled smoke and the threat of flames

Waze, which also works with transportation authorities and a team of local map editors to keep the app updated, says on any given day, those enflamed neighborhoods would have been shown as off limits within an hour of two. "We worked really hard Wednesday afternoon to get our maps up to date and accurate," says Waze spokesperson Chelsea Russo.

More from USA Today:

Erratic winds bedevil firefighters in California's Ventura County

Southern California wildfires: What we know now

Fire victim: 'This is what's left of our house'

Whether because the Santa Ana wind-fueled fires were spreading too fast — or some other reason — drivers Wednesday morning said the app's lag led to directions onto side-streets where fires had already closed them to traffic.

On assignment to cover the fires, a USA Today reporter midmorning Wednesday looked to Waze for an alternative route to the Getty Center museum, after fires had closed the normal route, Interstate 405 north.

The app suggested backstreets of the mansion-blanketed L.A. neighborhood of Bel Air instead, turning onto Bellagio Road, a thoroughfare that runs into the heart of Bel Air. Not noted by Waze at the time, there was a cop standing at the intersection, stopping drivers from passing through the Bel Air gates because the road led to the belly of the Skirball fire.

On Wednesday morning, there was no indication on the Waze app that any streets on the suggested route would be in fire territory, or even that there was a fire going on.

On social media, users asked Waze to update its service so it would steer drivers away from the fire. Other users sought to warn fellow drivers.

Waze and Google Maps are consistently ranked among the top navigation apps on Apple's App Store. Commuters in heavily congested areas like Los Angeles rely on the apps to cut minutes or sometimes even hours from their drives, a feature that's led to a loyal following for the app.

But sometimes routes go awry.

The Los Angeles Police Department was alerting users of navigation apps to avoid using them so they don't end up near the blazes, reported "The Los Angeles Times." Waze's Russo said the LAPD was working off Wednesday morning information.

An LAPD spokesperson didn't return a immediately return a request for comment.

The app now includes closures on approximately 110 road segments in the area of the fires, as well as the locations of 16 shelters. Users can also make emergency calls from within the app.

California fires: Navigation apps like Waze sent commuters into flames, drivers say

Google's navigation app, Waze, is directing some drivers right into neighborhoods where wildfires in Southern California have forced road closures and evacuations, USA Today reported Thursday.

Roads closed as a result of the wind-whipped fires have no traffic on them, apparently making them attractive to Waze's algorithms, the outlet reported. Waze says it has been working to correct the issue, USA Today reported.

A spokeswoman told the outlet the app has been in contact with local authorities to correctly label which roads are off limits within several hours of their closure.

"We worked really hard Wednesday afternoon to get our maps up to date and accurate," Waze spokeswoman Chelsea Russo told USA Today.

Users did not hold back on their criticism — and tweeted out warnings to other drivers.

I don't trust Waze. It just told me I could save 8 minutes by driving right thru a wild fire off the 405 Freeway. — Andy Ruther (@AndyRuther) December 6, 2017

Waze Navigation App Directing Drivers Into Cali Wild Fires

Google’s popular navigation app, Waze, is directing some drivers into neighborhoods where wildfires in Southern California have forced road closures, USA Today reported Thursday.

Waze's mission is to put users on less traveled routes to avoid traffic and get to their destinations faster. It collects data from drivers using the app to plan the best routes. When the app notices dense traffic from the data, it directs users toward roads that aren’t stuck in gridlock.

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Roads that have been closed as a result of fires have no traffic on them, apparently making them attractive to Waze’s algorithms.

Waze says that it’s been working to correct the issue. A spokeswoman told USA Today that the app has been in contact with local authorities to correctly label which roads are off limits within several hours of their closure.

"We worked really hard Wednesday afternoon to get our maps up to date and accurate," Waze spokeswoman Chelsea Russo told the outlet.

USA Today’s own staff experienced Waze directing them toward roads closed from fires on Wednesday morning.

Users also took to social media to complain about Waze’s options.

“I don't trust Waze. It just told me I could save 8 minutes by driving right thru a wild fire off the 405 Freeway,” one user tweeted.

Waze is sending California drivers toward fires

Users of popular navigation apps like Waze are warning the services directed them to neighborhoods where wildfires forced closures and evacuations.

The issue stems from the way apps like Waze help users avoid commute nightmares such as heavy traffic or construction. Largely reliant on information supplied by other drivers, when the Google-owned app notices gridlock on a user's route, it will reroute the driver to quieter streets — even if they're empty because drivers had fled smoke and the threat of flames.

Waze, which also works with transportation authorities and a team of local map editors to keep the app updated, says on any given day, those enflamed neighborhoods would have been shown as off limits within an hour of two. "We worked really hard Wednesday afternoon to get our maps up to date and accurate," says Waze spokesperson Chelsea Russo.

Whether because the Santa Ana wind-fueled fires were spreading too fast — or some other reason — drivers Wednesday morning said the app's lag led to directions onto side-streets where fires had already closed them to traffic.

On assignment to cover the fires, a USA TODAY reporter midmorning Wednesday looked to Waze for an alternative route to the Getty Center museum, after fires had closed the normal route, Interstate 405 north.

Waze's directions to the Getty Center on Thursday morning (Photo: Waze)

The app suggested backstreets of the mansion-blanketed L.A. neighborhood of Bel Air instead, turning onto Bellagio Road, a thoroughfare that runs into the heart of Bel Air. Not noted by Waze at the time, there was a cop standing at the intersection, stopping drivers from passing through the Bel Air gates because the road led to the belly of the Skirball fire.

On Wednesday morning, there was no indication on the Waze app that any streets on the suggested route would be in fire territory, or even that there was a fire going on. That didn't change on Thursday either.

Waze's directions Thursday morning gave no indication of fire danger (Photo: Waze)

On social media, users asked Waze to update its service so it would steer drivers away from the fire. Other users sought to warn fellow drivers.

Google maps, waze, and apple maps all seem to think I can take the 405 to work and drive right through the fire without any problems. That's a problem. — Punk&Spice Latte (@sch4) December 6, 2017

Google maps, waze, and apple maps all seem to think I can take the 405 to work and drive right through the fire without any problems. That's a problem. — Punk&Spice Latte (@sch4) December 6, 2017

@waze 405 south and northbound in Los Angeles closed due to huge fire. Can you update the maps so I get rerouted? Since I am not in that area it won't let me make as closed — 401(k) Expert (@401kexpert) December 6, 2017

I don't trust Waze. It just told me I could save 8 minutes by driving right thru a wild fire off the 405 Freeway. — Andy Ruther (@AndyRuther) December 6, 2017

Waze and Google Maps are consistently ranked among the top navigation apps on Apple's App Store. Commuters in heavily congested areas like Los Angeles rely on the apps to cut minutes or sometimes even hours from their drives, a feature that's led to a loyal following for the app.

But sometimes routes go awry.

The Los Angeles Police Department was alerting users of navigation apps to avoid using them so they don't end up near the blazes, reported The Los Angeles Times. Waze's Russo said the LAPD was working off Wednesday morning information.

An LAPD spokesperson didn't return a immediately return a request for comment.

The app now includes closures on approximately 110 road segments in the area of the fires, as well as the locations of 16 shelters, according to Waze. Users can also make emergency calls from within the app.

What you don't see in Waze, or the other transportation apps, are notices that you may be driving into a fire area. A query for directions from Los Angeles to Santa Paula, where are there are many fire-related closures, for instance, would normally call for traveling north on 101 and switching to the 126 freeway. But Waze Thursday instead called for many backroads--which could be expected, but with no mention of the fire-related alternative route.

Google Maps and Apple Maps offered similar routes, and neither mentioned the fire either.

Waze sent commuters toward California wildfires, drivers say

The Los Angeles Police Department cautioned drivers this week not to use navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze while trying to find their way from a fire zone.

Officials said some drivers attempting to circumvent the Skirball Fire, which shut down the 405 in the Sepulveda Pass, were routed into neighborhoods that were burning and under evacuation orders.

While navigation apps for smart phones can provide a great service in times of emergencies, the data they use don't always reflect the threats on the ground.

Waze Mobile does collaborate with agencies and local jurisdictions, such as the city of Los Angeles, to update routes with information on construction zones and road closures.

But in a fast-moving situation like the fires this week, that data can be limited as well as slow to update on the app.

Representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation said information about road closures filters through several verification checks starting from field officers on the ground before it is reported to Waze. The department doesn't collaborate with Google Maps, but the app pulls some alerts from Waze, which is also owned by Google.

Each navigation app operates by its own proprietary algorithm to calculate the best route. It is based on variables like speed, distance, traffic dynamics and level of preference for main roads over small neighborhood streets.

It's possible in the case of the latest fires that some empty roads in the line of the flames could have appeared as attractive routes to the algorithm, because no data about the borders of the evacuation zone were transmitted to the apps.

Waze is known for prioritizing shorter trips very highly, with lower priority given to keeping to main roads.

Residents in the neighborhoods along the 405 through Sepulveda Pass have complained for years that the Waze app has sent a stream of heavy traffic through their narrow canyon roads, which hamper emergency response even on a good day.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian has even tried to get Waze to remove some smaller streets in the area from its routing, but to no avail.

Waze does allow users to submit warnings about traffic obstructions or dangers, but it doesn't always change the route to avoid the dangerous areas.

Waze and Google officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Officials say the best bet for drivers is to monitor emergency notices and steer clear of the roads and neighborhoods where a disaster is affecting traffic.

LAPD warns navigation apps sent drivers into Skirball Fire zone

CLOSE This was startling scene along Interstate 405 in Los Angeles as a wildfire engulfed the hills. USA TODAY

The 101 Highway was closed after the Thomas Fire jumped the road towards the Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura, California, December 7, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Grillot, AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES—Users of popular navigation apps like Waze are warning the services directed them to neighborhoods where wildfires forced closures and evacuations.

The issue stems from the way apps like Waze help users avoid commute nightmares such as heavy traffic or construction. Largely reliant on information supplied by other drivers, when the Google-owned app notices gridlock on a user's route, it will reroute the driver to quieter streets — even if they're empty because drivers have fled smoke and the threat of flames.

Waze's directions to the Getty Center on Thursday morning (Photo: Waze)

Waze, which also works with transportation authorities and a team of local map editors to keep the app updated, says on any given day, those enflamed neighborhoods would have been shown as off limits within an hour of two. "We worked really hard Wednesday afternoon to get our maps up to date and accurate," says Waze spokesperson Chelsea Russo.

Whether because the Santa Ana wind-fueled fires were spreading too fast — or some other reason — drivers Wednesday morning said the app's lag led to directions onto side-streets where fires had already closed them to traffic.

On assignment to cover the fires, a USA TODAY reporter midmorning Wednesday looked to Waze for an alternative route to the Getty Center museum, after fires had closed the normal route, Interstate 405 north.

Waze's directions Thursday morning gave no indication of fire danger (Photo: Waze)

The app suggested backstreets of the mansion-blanketed L.A. neighborhood of Bel Air instead, turning onto Bellagio Road, a thoroughfare that runs into the heart of Bel Air. Not noted by Waze at the time, there was a cop standing at the intersection, stopping drivers from passing through the Bel Air gates because the road led to the belly of the Skirball fire.

On Wednesday morning, there was no indication on the Waze app that any streets on the suggested route would be in fire territory, or even that there was a fire going on. That didn't change on Thursday either.

As fires swept from hillsides Wednesday, forcing hundreds to evacuate, users asked Waze to update its service so it would steer drivers away. Other users sought to warn fellow drivers.

Google maps, waze, and apple maps all seem to think I can take the 405 to work and drive right through the fire without any problems. That's a problem. — Punk&Spice Latte (@sch4) December 6, 2017

@waze 405 south and northbound in Los Angeles closed due to huge fire. Can you update the maps so I get rerouted? Since I am not in that area it won't let me make as closed — 401(k) Expert (@401kexpert) December 6, 2017

I don't trust Waze. It just told me I could save 8 minutes by driving right thru a wild fire off the 405 Freeway. — Andy Ruther (@AndyRuther) December 6, 2017

Waze and Google Maps are consistently ranked among the top navigation apps on Apple's App Store. Commuters in heavily congested areas like Los Angeles rely on the apps to cut minutes or sometimes even hours from their drives, a feature that's led to loyal followings.

But sometimes routes go awry.

The Los Angeles Police Department was alerting users of navigation apps to avoid using them so they don't end up near the blazes, reported The Los Angeles Times. Waze's Russo said the LAPD was working off Wednesday morning information.

An LAPD spokesperson didn't return a request for comment.

The app on Thursday included closures on approximately 110 road segments in the area of the fires, as well as the locations of 16 shelters, according to Waze. Users can also make emergency calls from within the app.

What you don't see in Waze, or the other transportation apps, are notices that you may be driving into or near a fire area. A query for directions from Los Angeles to Santa Paula, where are there are many fire-related closures, for instance, would normally call for traveling north on 101 and switching to the 126 freeway. Waze Thursday instead called for many backroads, but didn't indicate if those detours were an attempt to route drivers around the fire, leaving commuters to hope that the app had updated.

Google Maps and Apple Maps offered similar routes, and neither mentioned the fire. This is very different from information Google delivers over the web, where a search for particular California fires Thursday surfaced a Google Crisis Map that integrated California public fire data to show where fires had spread.

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Waze sent commuters toward California wildfires, drivers say

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

At least five wildfires have been blazing in Southern California over the past week, engulfing tens of thousands of acres and more than 150 homes.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles Police Department advised drivers not to consult navigation apps, which it said were instructing users to drive towards streets in areas that are on fire because they are less crowded at the moment.

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It raised a question that could have broader implications: Can you trust the technology you use for everyday navigation in the event of a major emergency?

In this case, as the fires spread rapidly, the LAPD isn’t pointing to a systematic issue with the apps. Anibal Lopez, a representative for the department, told Slate, “We’re not telling people not to use the navigation apps. We want people around some areas to use them with caution.”

He noted that not all navigation apps are necessarily experiencing this issue, though he declined to name specific apps on the record. Officials at roads blocked off from the public due to fires have had to turn back cars because drivers have been directed there by their navigation apps.

According to USA Today, the Waze app did not alert a reporter of fires in Bel Air on Wednesday morning. There were also a number of people on Twitter reporting problems with several apps:

LA peeps: DON’T USE WAZE to get past 405 fire. It is taking people right into the neighborhoods that are on fire! #SkirballFire #TechnologyFail #LAFire — justin bellamy (@siliconbeacher) December 6, 2017

Google maps, waze, and apple maps all seem to think I can take the 405 to work and drive right through the fire without any problems. That's a problem. — Punk&Spice Latte (@sch4) December 6, 2017

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Waze, which has received much of the scrutiny, was active on Twitter in response. It says it’s working with transit officials to keep maps updated with road closures.

Southern California: Use Waze to find safety from the #wildfires. Together with @LADOTofficial & the #WazeCommunity we've marked 110 closures & 16 shelters, with more updates every minute. Need assistance now? Type "help" into your search bar & find your nearest, open shelter. pic.twitter.com/3HHcrrPp8v — waze (@waze) December 7, 2017

We're working with the @LADOTofficial and our #WazeCommunity to keep the Waze Map updated with road closures (currently at 110) & open shelters (16) to help Southern Californians navigate safely around the #wildfires. Please help us spread the word. https://t.co/QN4T0TFD9R — waze (@waze) December 7, 2017

Navigation apps do often have features designed to assist users in the event of natural disasters or other emergencies. Google launched the SOS Alerts tool for its Maps app in July, which provides news stories, emergency phone numbers, and other updates related to crises in affected locations. Google itself has released two maps that indicate the locations and conditions of the fires. And during Hurricane Irma in September, Google Maps marked road closers and used crowdsourced alerts from Waze to compile information on travel conditions during the storm.

A spokesperson for Google, which owns Waze, sent Slate a statement:

To provide access to accurate and useful transportation information, we use algorithmic and manual methods to account for everyday and emergency road closures. These road closures also appear on our LA Fire Crisis Map, embedded as part of our SOS Alert on Search. We'll continue to update the map in real time to address the changing conditions on the ground and help Los Angelenos get around safely.

Can You Trust Waze During an Emergency Like the California Wildfires?

The aftermath of a wildfire in 2015 (Image Source: The aftermath of a wildfire in 2015 (Image Source: Flickr via Bob Dass

Google maps, waze, and apple maps all seem to think I can take the 405 to work and drive right through the fire without any problems. That's a problem. — Punk&Spice Latte (@sch4) December 6, 2017

Motorists should take caution when driving in the direction of California's wildfires, even when using a navigation app that is continually updated. Case in point, users of Waze and other similar navigation apps report that driving directions have pointed them squarely to where the wildfires are raging, including roads that have been closed down or otherwise blocked off because of the fires.Apps like Waze use a combination of artificial intelligence and driver input to stay up to date with current conditions. In theory, these apps should warn drivers of dangerous areas and offer a different route to their destination. And they do, eventually. The problem is, it can can a bit of time before that information is properly inputted and relayed to drivers who are relying on their app to get them from point A to point B."We worked really hard Wednesday afternoon to get our maps up to date and accurate," Waze spokesperson Chelsea Russo told WBIR, a local NBC News affiliate.One of the handy features of Waze, which is owned by Google , is that it helps motorists shave time off their commute by avoiding traffic jams, construction, and other things that can slow a driver down. However, it is sometimes directing motorists to neighborhoods where fires are blazing and where there is a lot of smoke.This very thing happened to a USA Today reporter on Wednesday. The reporter had sought an alternative route to the Getty Center museum, because the wildfires closed off the normal route along Interstate 405, heading north. Waze pointed the reporter towards backstreets in Los Angeles, on a route that was blocked off by a police officer because it led directly into a fire engulfed area. Waze and other apps had not yet reflected this, as noted by several users on Twitter.Navigation apps are continually being updated, but the bottom line is that drivers should take caution when following directions that take them in the general area of the wildfires. Plan accordingly, as you may need find yourself seeking out an alternate, longer route to your destination.

Google's Waze Navigation Rerouting AI Directed Drivers Through Raging California Wildfires

Race to contain deadly blazes as authorities warn 80mph gusts could fan flames in already devastated communities

This article is more than 1 year old

This article is more than 1 year old

Wildfires blazing through California have entered the heart of Los Angeles as authorities warned of an “extreme fire danger” across the city.

Firefighters in the affluent Bel-Air neighbourhood battled to save multimillion-dollar estates in the path of the flames, which have destroyed homes near the Getty museum in America’s second largest city.

Video and photographs posted on social media showed hillsides above busy roads covered in flames, rows of houses reduced to ash, and firefighters spraying water on walls of fire.

The largest blaze, the Thomas fire, has covered more than 95,000 acres, destroying more than 150 homes and threatening thousands more in Ventura, about 50 miles (80 km) north-west of Los Angeles.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest The remains of the Vista del Mar hospital after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

A woman was found dead after a car crash in an area under an evacuation order, the authorities said on Thursday.

With winds forecast to reach 80mph, officials have warned the worst could be yet to come.

An alert sent by the countrywide emergency system in Los Angeles said: “Strong winds overnight creating extreme fire danger.”

The fear is that the winds, blowing westward from the California desert, could stoke several blazes burning in the Los Angeles area that have already forced an estimated 200,000 people to evacuate.

“We are in the beginning of a protracted wind event,” Ken Pimlott, the director of the California department of forestry and fire protection, told the Los Angeles Times. “There will be no ability to fight fire in these kinds of winds.”

Facebook Twitter Pinterest A firefighter controls flames at a home set ablaze by the Skirball fire in Bel-Air. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The Skirball fire, which erupted early on Wednesday, burned about 500 acres near large estates in Bel-Air, scorching part of a winery owned by Rupert Murdoch.

It erupted before dawn in the Sepulveda Pass, just up Interstate 405 from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), which cancelled classes for the rest of the day.

The Los Angeles Unified school district, the country’s second largest with more than 640,000 students, said it closed at least 265 of its nearly 1,100 schools on Thursday.

Dozens of schools were also closed in Ventura County. The school district, with nearly 17,000 students, said it hoped to reopen on Monday. In the city of Ventura, along the coast, where hundreds of structures were destroyed, blazes also killed more than two dozen horses at a stable.

The deputy fire chief, Charles Butler, said firefighters and aircraft had stopped the spread of the blaze in Bel-Air and were attempting to contain it before the winds returned.

He said four homes had been destroyed and 11 damaged, while about 700 properties, an apartment building and a school had been ordered to evacuate. Paris Hilton was among those who said they had fled the fire.

The Los Angeles mayor declared a local state of emergency on Wednesday morning because of the Skirball fire. Eric Garcetti told a news conference: “These are days that break your heart. These are also days that show the resilience of our city.”

In the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles, the Creek fire destroyed at least 30 homes, blackened more than 12,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 2,500 homes and a convalescent centre.

Another fire, known as the Rye, threatened more than 5,000 homes and structures north-west of Los Angeles.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Nasa satellite footage captured on 5 December shows thick smoke streaming from several fires in southern California. Photograph: Nasa/Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock

According to the LA Times, the LAPD have asked people to avoid using navigation apps on their phones because drivers were being directed towards open roads that were traffic-free because they were on fire.

Footage of a man appearing to coax a rabbit out of the fires near La Conchita on Wednesday night went viral on social media.

Play Video 0:32 Man jumps out of car to rescue wild rabbit from raging Californian wildfires - video

Three firefighters were injured and said to be in a stable condition in hospital, the Los Angeles fire department said.

South of Los Angeles, authorities also ordered evacuations in parts of San Diego County, closer to the Mexico border. In the rural community of Bonsall, more than a dozen structures were damaged or destroyed.

In a small evacuated community called Faria Beach, some residents were staying in place.

Joseph Ruffner, a resident who left earlier in the week and recently returned, told the Associated Press that he wasn’t going to evacuate again.

“This morning there was a wall of fire back right over here,” he said. “I didn’t think it was no big deal, but it’s comin

California wildfires: winds pose ‘extreme danger’ for Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES During this week’s wildfires, navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps were guiding drivers into evacuation areas and caused congestion where officials were ordering streets closed, according to a motion introduced by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz on Friday, Dec. 8.

Related Articles Newsom declares emergency, waives environmental rules for California fire season prep

Palos Verdes Estates gets a crash course in wildfire prevention, readiness The Creek and Skirball fires caused large-scale evacuations of streets and neighborhoods, and the motion says that navigation apps were directing

drivers to those areas because the data indicated there was no traffic there.

“Cut-through traffic directed by Waze and other navigation apps has long created problems in many residential neighborhoods. But on the day of the

Skirball fire evacuation, drivers’ phones were navigating them into the fire zone, onto streets they weren’t familiar with,” Koretz told City News Service.

“Not only did it steer them into life-threatening danger, but it caused congestion where public safety officials were ordering streets cleared so residents under evacuation orders could safely get out and we could get our fire equipment in. With a simple change in the program code this could be avoided in the future,” he said.

The motion would direct the fire department and Department of Transportation to report on efforts to coordinate with navigation app developers to prevent their apps from directing drivers into evacuated areas.

Waze, Google Maps make traffic matters worse during Skirball and Creek fires, officials say

LOS ANGELES During this week’s wildfires, navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps were guiding drivers into evacuation areas and caused congestion where officials were ordering streets closed, according to a motion introduced by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz on Friday, Dec. 8.

The Creek and Skirball fires caused large-scale evacuations of streets and neighborhoods, and the motion says that navigation apps were directing

drivers to those areas because the data indicated there was no traffic there.

“Cut-through traffic directed by Waze and other navigation apps has long created problems in many residential neighborhoods. But on the day of the

Skirball fire evacuation, drivers’ phones were navigating them into the fire zone, onto streets they weren’t familiar with,” Koretz told City News Service.

“Not only did it steer them into life-threatening danger, but it caused congestion where public safety officials were ordering streets cleared so residents under evacuation orders could safely get out and we could get our fire equipment in. With a simple change in the program code this could be avoided in the future,” he said.

The motion would direct the fire department and Department of Transportation to report on efforts to coordinate with navigation app developers to prevent their apps from directing drivers into evacuated areas.

Waze, Google Maps make traffic matters worse during Skirball and Creek fires, officials say

LOS ANGELES During this week’s wildfires, navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps were guiding drivers into evacuation areas and caused congestion where officials were ordering streets closed, according to a motion introduced by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz on Friday, Dec. 8.

Related Articles Newsom declares emergency, waives environmental rules for California fire season prep

Small fire stopped in Bommer Canyon in Irvine, downed power line is suspected cause The Creek and Skirball fires caused large-scale evacuations of streets and neighborhoods, and the motion says that navigation apps were directing

drivers to those areas because the data indicated there was no traffic there.

“Cut-through traffic directed by Waze and other navigation apps has long created problems in many residential neighborhoods. But on the day of the

Skirball fire evacuation, drivers’ phones were navigating them into the fire zone, onto streets they weren’t familiar with,” Koretz told City News Service.

“Not only did it steer them into life-threatening danger, but it caused congestion where public safety officials were ordering streets cleared so residents under evacuation orders could safely get out and we could get our fire equipment in. With a simple change in the program code this could be avoided in the future,” he said.

The motion would direct the fire department and Department of Transportation to report on efforts to coordinate with navigation app developers to prevent their apps from directing drivers into evacuated areas.

Waze, Google Maps make traffic matters worse during Skirball and Creek fires, officials say

The ongoing wildfires in Southern California have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced 200,000 people to evacuate. And with so many fleeing for safety, people have suddenly had to confront a once hypothetical question: How well can navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze deal with unfolding natural disasters? We reached out to Waze to find out.

The issue was thrown into sharp relief on Wednesday when the Los Angeles Police Department asked residents to avoid navigation apps that were redirecting drivers toward roads with light traffic — roads that were empty in the first place because the wildfires were actually burning nearby. Reports from Twitter users also indicated apps like Waze were directing drivers to neighborhoods affected by the fires.

To get more of a sense of how Waze — which, like Maps, is owned by Google — deals with the challenges of offering real-time directions during a natural disaster like the wildfires, Inverse reached out to the team behind the app.

When asked about Wednesday’s reported troubles, a Waze spokesperson said that as of Friday afternoon the app has closed approximately 443 road segments in consultation with the L.A. Department of Transportation and listed 22 available shelters for those displaced. They provided a general statement on the situation previously shared with other outlets.

“Crises are by nature unpredictable, and as fires moved rapidly and changed course the task became more challenging,” the statement reads in part. The entire statement is included at the bottom of this post. “That said, we believe the process worked as efficiently as it could and we’re proud of the work done by all parties. “

When asked more specific questions about the role Waze can play in a crisis, the spokesperson pointed to the app’s potentially unique advantages:

Our community of drivers, paired with our long-standing network of municipal partners is actually what puts Waze in a unique position as the only resource to offer real-time routing and information. Waze acts as a resource to connect local offices with its citizens during a crisis. Our existing government relationships provide us with real-time information on official road closures. In addition to working with L.A. Emergency Management teams and LADOT, who provided road closure data, our local map editor community works around the clock to ensure that the map stays up-to-date. During a crisis, we are able to speak directly with the authorities on-the-ground to ensure our map is accurate from the moment a crisis begins. As partners provide us with up-to-date data on an ongoing basis, we’re able to make sure our map remains fluid and continuously updates according to the changing conditions in an area. No one knows more about what’s happening on the roads than drivers themselves and the Waze community is always eager to share their experiences with others on the road.

The spokesperson also offered this advice on how users can most safely and responsibly use the app during a crisis:

Firstly, we never encourage driving during any sort of natural disaster, unless absolutely necessary. If traveling during a natural disaster, users can search the word “Help” to find their nearest shelter, or pan on the map and click on the shelter icon. We also make it easy to identify various evacuation routes, when needed. In addition to marking their location on the map wherever they need help, Wazers can also leverage our new Roadside Help features and make emergency calls to be connected with police, ambulances, or the fire department – all without ever leaving the app. We do encourage our users to actively report what they are seeing as this is an added layer of data that helps us close roads and make real-time updates to the map. Everything shared with Waze gets updated to the map in real-time and shared with our community.

When asked if there was anything else people should know, the spokesperson emphasized user participation as an essential part of its ability to function most helpfully:

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Given the crowd-sourced nature of the app, we take every report very seriously and take action to update the map as soon as we receive a report of a road closure or bad road conditions. You too can take an active role by adding road reports of accidents, or any other hazards along your routes to alert other drivers of real-time conditions.

Here is Waze’s full statement to the media on the reported issues with the app misdirecting drivers to fire-affected areas.

California Fires: How Is Waze Handling LA Wildfires? We Asked the App

When it first debuted in 2007, navigation app Waze had a simple mission: make commuting easier by developing a community of drivers who are able to inform each other about road conditions.

The idea is that, like Google Maps, Waze will give you directions from your current location to your desired destination. What's more, by keeping the app open as you drive, Waze will collect road and driving condition data, and use that info to shape route suggestions that are fast and traffic free.

SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Waze

It's a great idea in theory except ... well, that model has helped Waze drive directly into trouble from time to time.

Here are six times Waze wreaked havoc on drivers.

Baxter Street bumble

Los Angeles is sprawling and densely populated which means commutes can be long and congested (and sadly, it is NOT recommended that you pull a La La Land and dance on the roof of your car if you are stuck in traffic). So it makes sense that commuters might turn to Waze, which promises to help drivers avoid particularly congested routes, to navigate their way throughout the city.

But, in an effort to help users bypass traffic, Waze has been redirecting LA drivers to Baxter Street, a quiet road in Echo Park, Los Angeles. The only problem is that Baxter Street is famously one of the steepest streets in LA.

"When you get to the top, you can't see the hill on the other side, or the street, so people tend to stop. And that's where a lot of the problems come," Baxter Street resident Jeff Hartman told CBS News.

Once in the neighborhood, drivers aren't prepared for the steepness of the commute, which causes car crashes. Lots of them. "We had our garden wall knocked down twice, and my wife's car got hit in our own driveway. I've seen five or six cars smash into other cars, and it's getting worse," Robbie Evans, another Baxter Street resident, told the LA Times.

Waze defended the directions, telling CBS News "the city has placed a public road there ... it should be considered usable within Waze."

Driving through fire

At the end of 2017, Southern California suffered historically large and devastating wildfires, burning more than 100,000 acres throughout the Los Angeles area. Because of the fires, more than 200,000 people were required to evacuate.

Thousands upon thousands of people were required to evacuate their homes after the Southern California wildfires decimated the state. Image: NOAH BERGER/AP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

To find travel routes during the exodus, many drivers turned to navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze ... only to be directed to drive toward the very fires they were seeking to escape.

Passing this on for my LA peeps: DON’T USE WAZE near evacuated areas. It is navigating people through the neighborhoods that are on fire #SkirballFire — Hannah Payne (@hannahgpayne) December 6, 2017

"The Los Angeles Police Department asked drivers to avoid navigation apps, which are steering users onto more open routes — in this case, streets in the neighborhoods that are on fire," the LA Times reported in 2017.

The confusion seemed to stem from how Waze makes recommendations. The app uses info about road blocks and closures in addition to user feedback to give route recommendations. So if the maps aren't updated, you can get directions that lead you to dead ends, or in the case of the wildfires, roads that go through flames.

In response, Waze told Mashable that it was working with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to close around 110 dangerous road segments and provide drivers with evacuation routes and nearby shelter information.

Waze takes the plunge

There is a great scene in NBC's The Office where Michael Scott, following the directions of his GPS, drives into a lake, overly confident in the devices recommendation. "The machine knows!" he screams as he plunges the car into the water.

That was supposed to be a joke in a sitcom, but in 2018, that gag became a reality, when a group of friends followed Waze directions while sightseeing and ended up driving into Lake Champlain in Vermont, according to the Burlington Free Press.

Tara Guertin said she let her friends borrow her jeep to go sightseeing and, while on the road, the app told them to drive into the boat launch near the Coast Guard station. Because of weather conditions, the drivers didn't realize they were headed into a lake until it was too late.

At the time, Waze said they recommend drivers always watch the road while using the app, but ultimately said they were not able to comment on the incident. "It's impossible to comment here without seeing the user's driving file and we haven't received permission to do so - generally speaking, Waze maps are updated with millions of edits to adapt to real time road conditions daily, often making them the most accurate available," a spokesperson told the Burlington Free Press.

That's not to say that Waze is the only navigation app that gives bad directions sometimes. Google Maps does it too, lik

6 times navigation app Waze drove itself right into a scandal

LOS ANGELES, CA — Mobile traffic applications such as Waze are causing a dangerous flood of traffic to be funneled onto tiny Los Angeles side streets, and the city should develop ways to curb the apps from diverting drivers off of major thoroughfares, a Los Angeles city councilman said Wednesday.

"Residents in my district and throughout the city have experienced a major surge in dangerous and disruptive cut-through traffic in recent years," said Paul Krekorian, who represents parts of the San Fernando Valley, including Studio City and North Hollywood.

"Mobile app makers are sacrificing the quality of life in our neighborhoods, just so drivers can save a few seconds or minutes with an alternate route," he said. "We have an obligation to see what can be done to protect our neighborhoods and prevent these apps from continuing to divert drivers from major avenues onto small residential streets that aren't designed to accommodate high-volume traffic."

The city has a data sharing agreement with Waze, and Krekorian introduced a motion that would direct the city's Department of Transportation to report to the City Council on the current partnership with Waze and other app operators, including detailing what information L.A. gives them and what the city gets from them.

The motion would also ask the department what efforts it has made to get the app companies to address neighborhood concerns, call on the city attorney to analyze whether app companies share liability for damages in collisions caused by their users, and urge the City Council to request the app companies make their representatives available to work with the city" to reduce problems caused by their technology."

Google, which owns Waze, did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Krekorian introduced a similar motion in 2015 that asked Waze to partner with the city and alleviate traffic on residential streets, but he said Waze ignored the request.

"The real-world neighborhood impacts of sending distracted, stressed and/or lost drivers down unfamiliar streets remain," Krekorian's new motion says. "And while there are certainly other factors that contribute to the overwhelming amount of traffic in narrow, neighborhood feeder streets, map app makers -- like Google, Apple and Waze -- have shown little interest in helping neighborhoods reduce the hazards on their streets."

Krekorian is not the only council member to raise issues about Waze and safety.

During a series of wildfires in December, navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps were guiding drivers into evacuation areas and caused congestion where officials were ordering streets closed, according to a pending motion introduced that month by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz.

The Creek and Skirball fires, near Sylmar and Bel-Air, respectively, caused large-scale evacuations of streets and neighborhoods, and the motion said navigation apps were directing drivers to those areas because the data indicated there was no traffic there.

"Cut-through traffic directed by Waze and other navigation apps has long created problems in many residential neighborhoods. But on the day of the Skirball Fire evacuation, drivers' phones were navigating them into the fire zone, onto streets they weren't familiar with," Koretz told City News Service when he introduced the motion.

"Not only did it steer them into life-threatening danger, but it caused congestion where public safety officials were ordering streets cleared so residents under evacuation orders could safely get out and we could get our fire equipment in," he said. "With a simple change in the program code, this could be avoided in the future."

Koretz's motion would direct the fire department and Department of Transportation to report on efforts to coordinate with navigation app developers to prevent their apps from directing drivers into evacuated areas.

City News Service; Photo By Patch

Traffic App Waze Causes Headaches Across LA County: Councilman

Another Motion to curb traffic navigation apps has been introduced out of concern traffic apps have been clogging side streets with drivers and sending them into evacuated areas during emergencies.

Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) introduced a Motion immediately after December’s Skirball Fire that would direct the LAFD and Department of Transportation to report on efforts to coordinate with navigation app developers to prevent directing drivers into evacuated areas.

Last Tuesday, Councilmember Paul Krekorian (CD2) wants answers from the Department of Transportation to explain the current City partnership with these navigational apps and what efforts have been made by these app companies to address neighborhood concerns, etc. The Motion was seconded by Councilmember Paul Koretz.

City Council News: Motions Introduced to Curb Navigational Apps such as WAZE

Navigation apps like Waze are trying to help motorists avoid hurricane flooding. But can people really rely on their smartphones to steer themselves out of a disaster zone?

Amid heavy rain from Florence, some smartphone or in-car map directions in recent days have sent people in North Carolina onto flooded roads and others closed to traffic.

Google-owned Waze said Monday it's worked with local governments and its own community of volunteer map editors to mark closures of more than 1,300 roads in North Carolina and hundreds more in South Carolina and Virginia.

But the North Carolina Department of Transportation warned in a tweet on Sunday night that Waze and other travel apps are unable to keep up with Florence-caused road closings.

Scroll down for video

Above, flooded vehicles sit on a closed section of Interstate 95 in Lumberton, N.C., where the Lumber river overflowed following flooding from Hurricane Florence. Navigation apps like Waze are trying to help motorists avoid hurricane flooding

'It is not safe now to trust them with your life,' the agency warned after another Twitter user credited Waze for helping her avoid floodwaters during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

'This storm, this flooding, these road closings are worse than Matthew, and they'll get even worse. Please stay safe!'

GPS-powered mapping systems have come a long way since updating an in-car navigation system required loading a compact disc with the latest geographic data.

More cars now come with navigation systems that are updated remotely and automatically. Other drivers rely on apps like Waze, Google Maps or Apple Maps.

It can still be hard to keep up with Mother Nature.

Miguel Melo, 22, said he was trying to drive from North Carolina to Florida to get to a friend's house when his SUV stalled out in high water in Lumberton.

He was waiting with his stalled car on a service road parallel to flooded Interstate 95.

'The GPS brought me here. It's stupid, and it's really bad. I'm in trouble,' said the Raleigh resident, who was parked in a dry spot of road.

State officials had warned in previous days that GPS was taking people down routes where roads had flooded and urged people to check a list of road closures before driving.

'A map in a catastrophe is only so good as its ability to capture real-time information either from sensors or people,' said Steve Goldsmith, a professor who directs Harvard University's Data-Smart City Solutions project.

WHICH NAVIGATION APP IS THE MOST EFFICIENT? Blogger Artur Grabowski collected data from 120 trips since early 2017. He measured his activity on Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze to determine which navigation service got their users to their destination quickest. For each trip, he randomly selected an app to use and recorded this data in each trip: Grabowski collected a data set (pictured) based on 120 trips taken via Apple Maps, Waze and Google Maps since early 2017 Which app was randomly selected to follow for each trip (Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze)

Estimated driving time for each app

Departure and arrival time

Traffic conditions (i.e. work commute hours or not)

Weather conditions (i.e. rain or not)

Driving type (i.e. >75% city, >75% highway, or mixed) From that data, he charted how often each app provided slower/faster trip time. He also measured how often the app got users to their destination on time and if not, how often users arrived at their destination later than expected. From that, he combined the estimated trip times with estimation errors to arrive at an error adjusted estimated trip time. This figure determined his key question: Which navigation app actually gets you to your destination most quickly? Based on his results, he determined that Google Maps gets users to their destination fastest .

Goldsmith, a former mayor of Indianapolis and former deputy mayor of New York, said the good news is that the flourishing of map apps has 'unlocked the ability of people to post information in real time and help their neighbors.'

Waze, in particular, relies on a large community of users inputting data about the latest road conditions.

Goldsmith said more government agencies are also entering two-way information sharing arrangements that help provide a better picture of what's happening on the ground, both for emergency responders and the travelers themselves.

'Individuals themselves will always collectively have more information than governments will,' he said. 'They'll have more information but less well organized.'

Local authorities say people shouldn't rely on apps to avoid flooding, even though Waze and others are working to stay up to date

After a bridge collapsed last month in Genoa, Italy, map providers such as Google were swift in updating their road maps, said Sam Hind, a researcher at the University of Siegen in Germany who studies navigation technology.

But disasters like Florence are trickier, Hind said.

'A single incident is obviously far easier to render and change than a general area that

Navigation apps like Waze may NOT be reliable for steering you out of a disaster, experts warn