A man has demonstrated how easy (but expensive) it is to fool the world’s biggest navigation service. Simon Weckert, an artist from Germany, tried to perform a strange experiment of creating a fake traffic jam and achieved it.
Weckert managed to create a virtual traffic jam on Google Maps using 99 smartphones. As you might know, Google Maps shows live traffic status by tracking the location of numerous smartphones present inside moving vehicles.
If Google senses that there are too many slow-moving devices on a stretch of road, it thinks that could be the possibility of traffic congestion. The result, it highlights that particular stretch of road with a red color.
Weckert also posted a 2-min long YouTube video, where the artist can be seen pulling a wagon full of smartphones on a near-empty road. The video also includes a screen recording of Google Maps, where we can see how almost instantly the stretch of road becomes red.
Of course, the video quickly invited a variety of comments. While some found it amusing, others expressed concerns that such an act could “cause serious chaos.”
A user named Rahul Noolu asked why Google isn’t detecting it as a bus since all the smartphones are very close and “not moving relative to each other”.
Another question that sparks curiosity is how Weckert managed to get hold of so many devices at once. According to him, all the devices he used are second hand.
Anyway, the experiment was enough to invite a comment from Google. The company told 9to5Google that although the Maps data gets refreshed regularly, there is still scope for improvement on how the data is handled.
“Whether via car or cart or camel, we love seeing creative uses of Google Maps as it helps us make maps work better over time.”
While Maps can differentiate between cars and bikes in some places, it hasn’t been able to tackle carts yet, Google jokingly mentioned
Weckert’s Google Maps ‘hack’ shows how our ever-capable technology can be manipulated, sometimes without even writing a single line of code.
Another interesting takeaway from the video is that the artist was strolling his card while outside Google’s office in Berlin.
It further hints that we shouldn’t blindly trust navigation apps and steer our vehicles wherever the app tells us to. We saw an example last year when a bizarre Google Maps glitch led over 100 drivers into a muddy field in Colorado, United States.