Traffic app Waze is asking UK users to tell it which petrol stations have fuel available, amid the UK’s shortage of petrol at the pump.
Users of the app are receiving push notifications asking them to “help your community stay informed”.
This data is then plugged into the app’s live map for others to see which stations are open.
Similar measures have been criticised as fuelling panic buying and adding to the problem.
Many local Facebook groups and apps such as Nextdoor have been flooded in recent days with messages from people offering advice about which petrol stations have fuel.
Waze, a subsidiary of Google, said the feature to show fuel stocks was not new but the company “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 said.
“In some areas, speeds have slowed to as low as 3km/h (1.9mph) as drivers rushed to fill their cars.”
The push notifications “will enable motorists to guide others to forecourts which have remaining supplies, saving unnecessary journeys to those which have already run out,” he said.
The government maintains there is no national fuel shortage – and any regional issues are fuelled by extreme demand.
Earlier this week, Brian Madderson, who chairs the Petrol Retailers’ Association, told BBC News: “One of the reasons for this is social media.
“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.
“Everyone flocks there… within a few hours, it is out again.”
Waze’s app is most often used to crowdsource live traffic data, so it can tell users about sudden road closures and traffic jams.
But now its data showed which areas of major population centres had the worst traffic around fuel stations, the company said.
- On Wednesday lunchtime in Liverpool, traffic at Hunter Street headed towards a BP petrol station on New Islington Road had had an average speed of just 5mph
- At the same time in London, one of the worst traffic jams had been on Park Lane, in Mayfair, heading towards the Esso station, where traffic had slowed to 7.5mph
Its internal data also showed in some areas – such as Liverpool, Luton, and Manchester – the distance driven had actually increased on some days, in part due to people searching for petrol.