Google Maps is a hugely useful tool that’s used by millions of people around the globe, mostly thanks to its excellent navigation and traffic tools. Recently, though, someone had the bright idea to “hack” Google Maps by creating virtual traffic jams using a wagon full of smartphones.
If you’ve ever used Google Maps in a remotely busy area, you’ve probably come across intersections where an accident or construction slowed down traffic a fair bit. When that happens, Maps changes the color of the affected roads from green to either orange or red to show how bad the traffic is and, if things get bad enough, it will even find another route for its users.
To figure out how bad traffic is, Google uses other people with Maps to identify areas of heavy traffic or slow-moving traffic. The more people using Google Maps in one area, the worse the traffic probably is and, in turn, Google changes the color of the street to show that.
Simon Weckert recently took advantage of that process with a “hack” – as he calls it – for Google Maps. To accomplish this, he loaded 99 smartphones into a wagon and turned them all onto Maps navigation. As he walks down a street, Google recognizes the high concentration of “users” and the slow-moving “traffic” and marks that street as having bad traffic.
Somewhat hilariously, this would actually cause other drivers in the area using Maps to be re-routed to avoid the “traffic” caused by this otherwise harmless prank. Weckert even took the collection of smartphones right outside of Google’s Berlin offices to create the virtual traffic jam.
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.
Hopefully, Google will take measures to prevent this sort of thing in the future since this could probably be abused by someone with the right resources.
Granted, it’s important to note that it’s entirely possible this is being faked – the methodology isn’t clearly explained in the post, after all. We’ve reached out to Google to see if the company has any measures in place to prevent abuse of this sort of thing.
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