How to make Google Maps believe in a non-existent traffic jam


Many peo­ple use the Google Maps appli­ca­tion to mon­i­tor traf­fic con­di­tions. Google tracks the move­ment of users using the geolo­ca­tion func­tion in the smart­phone. When the sys­tem sees that a large num­ber of users are mov­ing slow­ly along the road, it auto­mat­i­cal­ly assumes that there is a traf­fic jam in this place and marks the road in red. It turns out that this fea­ture can be used to trick the sys­tem.

Ger­man artist Simon Weck­ert has learned how to gen­er­ate non-exis­tent traf­fic jams. He sim­ply loaded 99 smart­phones into a cart and began to roll them through the streets. As exper­i­ments show, the method works. The cart with smart­phones, in fact, imi­tates 99 full-size pas­sen­ger cars locat­ed at the same time in the same place. The fact that the sig­nals come from one point, the sys­tem writes off on errors in nav­i­ga­tion. As a result, even on an emp­ty road, a traf­fic jam is dis­played in Google Maps.

The fun­ny thing is that this method affects oth­er Google Maps users as well. When the sys­tem sees a traf­fic jam on a sec­tion of the road, it auto­mat­i­cal­ly starts lay­ing routes in alter­na­tive ways. Thus, in sev­er­al cas­es, Weck­ert man­aged to com­plete­ly clear the road, ensur­ing that not a sin­gle car drove onto it.

Of course, not all dri­vers in the world use Google Maps. But it should be under­stood that this map ser­vice is inte­grat­ed into many appli­ca­tions, such as Airbnb and Uber. “Google Maps has fun­da­men­tal­ly changed our under­stand­ing of what a map is, how we inter­act with maps, removed many tech­no­log­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions and influ­enced how maps look aes­thet­i­cal­ly”, Weck­ert writes on his web­site. Accord­ing to the artist, Google Maps have a huge impact on real­i­ty. So, know­ing how to manip­u­late this sys­tem, you know how to manip­u­late real­i­ty.

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