Google Maps Hack: Company Responds to Video of Fake Traffic Jam Created by 99 Smartphones

Photo Credit: YouTube/ Simon Weckert

Weckert’s devilishly simple trick, managed to fool Google Maps into reporting a traffic jam

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Weckert’s little trick seems to have amused the Google Maps team
  • It says it will use this scenario to improve the service over time
  • Google Maps uses crowdsourced data for traffic updates

After Simon Weckert’s little stunt in Berlin went viral, where he managed to trick Google Maps into reporting a traffic jam on an otherwise empty stretch of road, Google seems amused and has since responded to this. Weckert collected 99 working smartphones in a little trolly cart and lugged it around the streets of Berlin. The slow pace of so many phones all moving together, led Google Maps to believe that there was a traffic jam, and began reporting it too. Google’s light-hearted response stated that while it’s developed the ability to distinguish users in cars and motorcycles, it hasn’t quite cracked travelling by wagon. This little stunt also goes to show how crowdsourced data, while at times can be immensely helpful, can also be misused to create chaos.

Commenting on the Google Maps hack video, a Google spokesperson responded to 9to5Google, saying “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.” Google reportedly also clarified that in normal usage, it does use a large number of devices running Maps to detect traffic jams for live updates on its app.

Google’s response further stated that Google Maps traffic data is being refreshed continuously its information from a variety of sources, which includes aggregated anonymous data from users that have location services enabled and also contributions from the Google Maps community. The spokesperson mentions that Google has developed the ability to distinguished between cars and motorcycles in several countries, including India, Indonesia, and Egypt. Google also hinted that it can learn from unique cases like this one, to improve the service and make it work better over time.

Here’s the full Google response: “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. [..] Traffic data in Google Maps is refreshed continuously thanks to information from a variety of sources, including aggregated anonymized data from people who have location services turned on and contributions from the Google Maps community. We’ve launched the ability to distinguish between cars and motorcycles in several countries including India, Indonesia and Egypt, though we haven’t quite cracked travelling by wagon.