Google Maps is used by tens of millions of people every day. But even this super-popular service sometimes gets it wrong – which can lead to serious problems for travelers.
On Nov. 19, a group of Los Angeles residents were returning from the Formula One Grand Prix in Las Vegas. When they tried to choose an alternative route, the app informed them that they were delayed on the freeway due to a dust storm, while suggesting a shorter and easier detour route – but on an off-road route.
In reality, however, it turned out to be a road to nowhere. As a result, instead of the cherished Los Angeles, Californians found themselves in the center of the Mojave Desert, located in southern California. Moreover, they were far from being the only victims. A collective appeal to the 911 emergency service did not help either: the rescuers refused to go because of the traffic congestion on the highway due to the same dust storm. An attempt to get back to the highway on their own also failed – the car got stuck in the sand after a few kilometers. At the cost of great effort travelers still reached the nearest gas station, from where, in order not to risk any more, went to the local airport.
According to Shelby Isler, one of the victims, the alternative route suggested by Google Maps was safer in the dust storm, and the fact that it was 50 minutes shorter made it the obvious choice. She added, however, that the original route was practically the only one available in the situation. The conclusion is self-evident: in an unfamiliar place, it’s always better to take the road you know.