Google Maps is probably the biggest service of its kind that many people use on a daily basis. Whether you want to search for nearby places, or use the app for navigation, it works buttery smooth.
Google Maps is the first solution that most people resort to. Mostly, it’s because of the fact that the app comes preloaded on all Android smartphones. Also, there isn’t any reliable alternative to Google Maps. Maybe, Apple Maps would catch up, but it would still be limited to Apple devices.
Just like other people, I also use Google Maps to go from point A to point B, especially when I go to some new place. In fact, I often find myself using Google Maps more than anything else, planning routes for my future trips which eventually get scraped off.
Still, we can say that the app has made our lives a lot easier. Although, for that, it needs to track our every possible move. For privacy-concerned users, Google has recently added an auto-delete feature that removes location data after a specified period of time.
How does Google Maps track traffic in real-time?
One of the most used features of Google Maps is Navigation. It’s helpful to know the traffic status before you leave so that you don’t get stuck in jams for hours.
As you might know, Google tracks real-time traffic using the location data it collects from GPS-based smartphones across the globe. Another method it uses is called triangulation where it measures the distance between cell towers and smartphones to know the location and flow of the traffic.
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Google’s algorithms are smart enough to know whether a vehicle is stuck in a jam or parked outside a house. With more and more people using Google Maps, the service is becoming more accurate with time, which in turn encourages more people to use it. So, it’s a cycle.
Recently, Google added a feature where it would alert people if their cab starts going off route.
What’s wrong with Google Maps?
Now, the story isn’t entirely a fairy tale. Sometimes, Google Maps messes up people’s routes in ways one can’t imagine. At last, all people can do is curse themselves for being heavily dependant on technology.
If I talk about my past experiences, there have been times during my road trips when the Google Maps lady led us to unmanned places in the middle of the night. Also, there was one instance when I followed Google Maps and drove into a narrow road.
Eventually, it was a dead end and I had to reverse my car on that narrow road for around 500m. It was a real nightmare, as you might know how such roads are in India.
Recently, during an Uber ride, I was thinking of what could happen if Google Maps gets fucked up some day. Just yesterday I saw this news, where a similar thing happened on a smaller scale.
Around 100 drivers in Colorado, United States learned a lesson for putting so much trust in Google Maps. Stuck in a traffic jam, they tried to find the fastest route to reach their destination and ended up in a muddy field. Adding to the problem, the grid-locked cars that weren’t four-wheel drive faced a hard time getting out of the mud.
This brings me to the question: can Google Maps disrupt an entire city’s traffic?
You might think I am trying to stretch a ‘small’ glitch that created problems for 100 drivers at the same time. But imagine if the number is higher.
Connie Monsees was one among the people. She couldn’t reach timely to pick up her husband from the airport, but she doesn’t want to put the blame on Google.
“I don’t know that it’s so much about Google, it’s about us — that we want so badly for life to be efficient that we try to take shortcuts that aren’t really necessary,” Monsees told ABC News.
Yes, we should take it ourselves up to some degree. But maybe, someday Google Maps (or some other service) will affect 1000 people or even more than that. Because, just like me, there are many people who blindly follow the soothing voice of the Google Maps lady.
Google said in its defense that the road on which it routed the cars wasn’t labeled as private. The company takes many factors into consideration such as the size of the road and the directness of the route. But unforeseen circumstances such as weather issues can affect road quality.
Technology can be efficient, but it can run into problems and we need to acknowledge that. In whatever area you’re driving, make sure you also keep an eye on the different signboards that come in the way.
It won’t cost anything to ask the directions from the locals in case you think you’re not going on the right road. You should be slightly more careful if you’re in a new place. Also, we should sometimes trust our own sense of judgment.