Traffic app Waze has begun prompting users to send in crowdsourced data on fuel availability at petrol stations, amidst widespread shortages triggered by panic buying.
Users of the Google-owned app have reportedly begun receiving push notifications urging them to “help your community stay informed”.
The live data are added to the navigation tool, indicating which stations are open as well as traffic conditions around them.
However, similar methods on social media have been criticised as adding to the problem by driving further panic buying.
The Waze feature for reporting petrol station fuel stocks has been in place for years, but the company said it has “made the decision to push notify users to encourage its use”.
“Fears of disruption to fuel supply have created bumper-to-bumper traffic at petrol stations,” Waze UK manager Ru Roberts told the BBC.
“In some areas, speeds have slowed to as low as 3km/h (1.9mph) as drivers rush to fill their cars.”
He said the notifications would “enable motorists to guide others to forecourts which have remaining supplies, saving unnecessary journeys to those which have already run out”.
Waze’s crowdsourced data is generally employed to advise drivers of live traffic data, such as unexpected road closures or traffic jams.
More recently it has been used to advise users of traffic slowdowns near petrol stations.
The government has said that any regional issues with fuel availability are due to extreme demand, and not to a national shortage.
The Petrol Retailers’ Association said last week that reports on social media, such as local Facebook groups or local area-focussed apps such as Nextdoor, have added to supply issues.
“As soon as a tanker arrives at a filling station, people on social media are advising that a tanker has arrived and then it’s like bees to a honey pot,” said the association’s chair Brian Madderson. “Within a few hours, it is out again.”
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