Timeline of updating process
Delays due to server problems
The times listed below assume Waze is functioning normally. At the moment, normal is still below Waze's target times and this is reflected in the range of times given. At times, service can drop significantly below normal and the times will become much longer. Check the the official Waze Status page before complaining about delays.
When you start your Waze client device it will attempt to connect to the Waze servers. If it fails it will periodically retry. While disconnected you have access to cached maps and some cached routing information. The client can also do its own routing, but it does not include road speeds and the estimated times are completely wrong.
When connected Waze will, if necessary, update the client map against the Live Map. If you plot a route, it will also make any map updates along the route.
Traffic notifications come to your client in real time. These include traffic speeds and accident reports. Waze may automatically generate a new route based on such traffic speed reports.
Editing the map
Unless you become an Area Manager you can only edit the map up to 1 mile (1.6 km) from where you have driven. Permission to edit your new routes does not always happen immediately. While it may appear in your recent routes in a few hours, it can take up to a few days to appear.
When you travel with the Waze client app enabled, your route is recorded and can be viewed in the Waze Map Editor. It can take as long as 3 days for your routes to appear. Substantially longer times may occur when Waze is dealing with more urgent problems, and sometimes it can appear just a few hours (or even a few minutes).
If you go to the Waze Map Editor page you will see a Drives tab in the upper left. Select the entry you want to see displayed on the editor map to view the route and see any road segments that you created so you can get them verified.
If you record (pave) a new road it will first appear as a red line on your client device. It will not be visible in Waze Map Editor (WME) as a new road until about the same time it appears as a recent route on the Drives tab (sometimes a few hours to a full day). The red line roads will disappear from your client device after a week at most.
After roads are confirmed in WME, it takes a few days for the routing server to fully update to reflect the changes. So you can see new roads, and navigate to them by choosing them as a destination, but you may not find them as a location. Routing may not be optimal (or may fail), until the routing server processes the new changes.
When your client device connects to Waze it retrieves your current points from the Waze points table. As you gain points while driving, your client device updates your points, and tries to send them to the Waze server. The Waze server holds these updates and adds them to the points table once a day.
Your client device will estimate how many points you earn, but may give you points that you shouldn't receive. For example, you may earn points by road-munching an unconfirmed road, but in fact someone else drove it an hour earlier. The Waze server will sort that out, and the points your phone gave you provisionally will disappear when you get an update from the server.
If you restart Waze it will download the current points from the Waze points table again, without the updates. It will appear as though your points have been lost. New points will continue to be added. At the end of the day, the Waze server will process all the points updates and your total will be as it should.
Even after your route is can be viewed in the Waze Map Editor, an unconfirmed road you have driven over as may still appear as a pacman-road. It is usually 2 days, but can be up to a week, before the road on your client map will lose the dots with the status of a confirmed road. This is due to Waze wanting multiple data points for this road.
Loss of information
There are reports of permanent losses of points, missing road updates, and missing routes. Many of these are resolved by the passage of time.
There have been users that actually had some genuine losses, but these instances are uncommon and getting less and less often as Waze continues to develop and grow.
City Names and Boundaries
In Waze Map Editor you can see faint gray areas marking the boundaries of a city. These areas are calculated automatically from the position of roads labelled with those cities. These boundaries are updated within a couple of days of the Live Map being updated. The city name will appear at a point central to all these roads. When a city is first being mapped, and roads leading to the city have the city name, the placement of the city name will not be accurate and will even move as you change your location and zoom level. This becomes fixed as more roads, closer together, are given the city name.
If you are editing the roads for a new city, you will need to have at least 20 streets with the city name, before the city name will appear. You can expect a few days delay between seeing the street names appear on the map and your city name appearing.
Automatic road updates by Waze
With enough wazers driving along a route, Waze will automatically learn and apply corrections. Road layout will improve, roads will change from two-way to one-way or from one-way to two-way, and Waze will learn what turns are permitted at junctions.
But to avoid errors due to inaccurate GPS measurements (especially in cities), and a few incidents of driver error (illegal turns or going the wrong way down a one-way street), Waze is conservative and requires a large number of accurate driving tracks before making a change. Between 20 and 100 trips accurately recorded seem to be enough to trigger Waze to make an automatic update to the roads.
So the more wazers, the faster this will happen.