Google Maps has become an essential part of our life. Millions of people, including me, use Google Maps daily to commute to different places. While it is true that there are other maps providers out there, but no one is as successful as Google Maps. And the reason is very simple: Google Maps offer more features than any other map providers out there. There are simple yet useful features such as suggesting the best route, live traffic tools that make commuting much easier and painless. Out of all the features, Google Maps’ traffic tool is unmatchable for other competitors. If you use Google Maps, you know how Google Maps show traffic conditions by changing the color of the road. Depending on the traffic situation, the affected road may turn into orange or red. Orange symbolizes that the traffic flow is slower than usual, while red signifies that the traffic is very slow, and you may have to wait longer. Also, when that happens, Google Maps suggest some alternative route that may help you reach your destination faster.
To show that Google Maps along with other factors, uses people’s location service and past data on that street to predict the flow of the traffic. The more people using Google Maps on that road, the bad the traffic condition is.
So, recently, an artist by the name Simon Weckert had a bright idea to use this Google Maps process to “hack” Google Maps to create a fake/virtual traffic. To pull this tick up, he used 99 second-hand smartphones, all running Google Maps and loaded up on a cart. Then he pushed that cart on one empty street of Berlin. And sure enough, Google Maps registered them as real cars and started showing that the street has bad traffic. In truth, there were barely any cars on that road that day. And this prank would actually prompt Google Maps to reroute other commuters on that street to avoid bad traffic.
In a blog post, Simon Weckert wrote:
” 99 second hand smartphones are transported in a handcart to generate virtual traffic jam in Google Maps.Through this activity, it is possible to turn a green street red which has an impact in the physical world by navigating cars on another route to avoid being stuck in traffic. ” #googlemapshacks
Funnily, Simon Weckert pulled this prank right outside Google’s Berlin office and created fake virtual traffic.
In a statement to 9to5Google, a Google spokesperson said that they will be taking use cases like this to further improve Google Maps performance.
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 Spokesperson
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 traveling by wagon. We appreciate seeing creative uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better over time.
From Google’s statement, it is clear that while Google is taking this prank light-heartedly, it is also working to improve Google Maps, so that people can not manipulate its features.
What is your opinion on this prank? To be honest, I think this prank is hilarious, and at the same time, how easy it is sometimes to fool Google.