Google Acquiring Navigation App Vendor Waze for $1.3B: Reports

Waze, which previously had been in acquisition talks with Facebook, is slated to become a Google company. 

Google will pay $1.3 billion to acquire Israeli community-based traffic and navigation app startup Waze to add to Google's growing portfolio of popular and revenue-enhancing mapping tools.

The two companies have agreed to the deal in principal, but it has not yet been completed, according to a Reuters report that quoted sources who are familiar with the ongoing negotiations.

One of the sources described the remaining details of the deal as "logistics rather than significant sticking points" that could halt a deal, according to the report.

Google's discussions with Waze began after previous talks between Waze and Facebook failed to reach a similar agreement, Reuters reported.

Those discussions came after yet another rumored deal arose in late 2012 when Apple purportedly was about to purchase Waze. At the time, the rumors called for Apple to acquire Waze to bolster its own mapping services, which had suffered after Apple tried to build a Google Maps replacement for its iOS 6 operating system in September 2012.

Waze is a mobile navigation app for iPhones and Google Android devices that allows drivers to build and use live maps, real-time traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation.

The previous Waze acquisition talks with Facebook collapsed "over Waze's insistence that its R&D operations remain in Israel," according to a report from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "Facebook had sought to fold the company's operations into its California headquarters and re-brand them as a Facebook product," Haaretz reported. Under the deal with Google, Waze's research and development center will remain in Israel for at least three years, and the CEO, Noam Bardin, will remain, the paper stated.

Responding to a request for comment on the deal, a Google spokesman told eWEEK, "We don't comment of rumor or speculation."

Waze works by allowing users to crowd-source their commutes and other drives using the app to report traffic jams, accidents and other traffic details along the way.

Waze is free for users, which has contributed to its popularity.

After the Oklahoma tornadoes and Interstate 5 bridge collapse in Washington state in May, Waze crowd-sourcing was used to help drivers in those areas avoid the major traffic jams created by the disasters, according to the Waze Blog.

Earlier in May, Google unveiled innovative updates for Google Maps at its annual Google I/O developers conference, including a more interactive look and feel.

The new Google Maps takes a novel approach to how people use online and mobile maps, gaining the ability to instantly respond to user inputs, making recommendations on places to visit and highlighting information that matters most during a map inquiry. The next generation of the Maps service essentially will create a map that is unique to each user and his or her needs, based on the input from the user.

With the new Maps features, users will also be able to uncover the best local destinations of all types, with detailed labels popping up that provide brief place descriptions and icons that highlight business categories and other useful information, such as which restaurants are recommended by your Google+ friends.

The revamped Maps also feature images of destinations more prominently for users, as well as presenting improved directions and tours generated from user-submitted photos.

In December 2012, Google updated its Google Maps Android API to bring more features to maps on Android devices, including improved designs for larger displays and additional layers to show terrain, traffic and more.

The move continues to raise the bar for Google Android, Apple and Nokia in the mobile device competition as the companies fight to improve their maps apps for map-hungry users.