By Natalie Hayes
CHICAGO (CBS)–Lower Wacker Drive is a dead zone for GPS, sending many drivers into panic mode when they reach Chicago’s 5-mile stretch of underground roadways.READ MORE: Chicago Weather Alert: Dangerous Driving Conditions With Snow Causing Low Visibility For Friday Commute
Drivers who travel Lower Wacker will finally get a little extra guidance thanks to a beacon system being installed along Chicago’s underground roadways this week through a collaboration of the City of Chicago, Google-owned Waze and Chicago-based SpotHero.
The beacons, which SpotHero says will start working next week, will send location signals to drivers’ cellphones when they get underground on Lower Wacker, Lower Columbus Drive and Lower Michigan Avenue. Drivers will need to have their Bluetooth or the Waze app switched on.
The system works by emitting signals that can assist navigation apps like Waze when they lose GPS contact underground. Google Maps users will not be able to get the signals, however.
“As of right now, they only work with Waze,” said project spokesperson Ellen Burr in an email. “However, the beacon technology is open for any GPS company to plug into, so the hope is that apps like Google and Apple Maps will use them as well in the near future.”
An experience getting lost in Boston’s underground tunnels inspired Waze engineer Gil Disatnik to start working on a solution, according to a news release from SpotHero.READ MORE: Chicago Weather Alert: City Deploys Over 200 Plows Amid Lake Effect Snow
Disatnik launched the Waze Beacons Program in 2016, and Waze has helped install beacons in seven other cities, including Boston and Pittsburgh, according to the news release.
Similar beacons systems are functioning in Brazil, France, Italy, Israel and Czech Republic, according to SpotHero.
Chicago began installing about 400 beacons on Monday and the project is expected to be completed by August 30, according to SpotHero spokesperson Cassie Kling.
The beacons are being installed by the Chicago Department of Transportation, and the city is footing the bill for the labor costs. SpotHero bought and donated the beacons to the city, investing about $15,000 in the project, according to Burr.