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Berlin Man Creates Traffic Jams On Google Maps By Carting Around 99 Phones

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 04 Feb 2020 17:47
Guy Creates Traffic Jams On Google Maps By Carting Around 99 Phones Guy Creates Traffic Jams On Google Maps By Carting Around 99 Phones Simon Weckert

A German man successfully outsmarted the Google Maps algorithm by carting round 99 phones, tricking it into thinking there was a traffic jam.

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While you’d presume it was done out of pure boredom, artist Simon Weckert actually planned the whole thing out beforehand.

He searched for directions on 99 phones and then walked through several main roads in Berlin, even walking past the Google headquarters, with the phones trailing behind in a Matilda-esque cart.

Guy Creates Traffic Jams On Google Maps By Carting Around 99 PhonesGuy Creates Traffic Jams On Google Maps By Carting Around 99 PhonesSimon Weckert

The cluster of phones reporting the same location to Google led the app to determine there was a large traffic jam in the area, making it update its map directions accordingly.

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On Weckert’s website, he said he wanted to ‘make changes to the physical world by the use of digital means’.

Taking to Twitter on Saturday, February 1, Weckert said:

99 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!

Weckert apparently conducted the experiment last summer, but has only just shared information about the project in light of it being Google Maps’ 15th birthday this week.

You can see Weckert’s video of his experiment, which has been viewed over a million times, here: 

While the project is pretty quirky, some people have taken to Twitter to call bullsh*t on its results, with some calling it ‘stupid’.

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One cynic replied to Weckert’s tweet saying:

I call BS on this one. The phones need proper GPS reception for this to work and the ones in the deeper layers of the cart will not have that. Furthermore Google will probably filter out cases like “99 phones on a single spot”. They need to filter out pedestrian traffic anyways.

How comes that the “phone displays” look like paper printouts glued on top with unrealistic light reflections for glass, picture appearing to be not below glass and viewing angle having no effect (unlike proper displays, obvious in the video)? This seems fake as fuck.

Someone else said: 

I think that this is an utterly stupid and childish undertaking undermining the liability of an otherwise extremely helpful service. You should use your ideas and redourcefulness to make the world a better place [sic]

Well, that went down like a lead balloon with some people.

However, the less serious people of the world found the project quite amusing, with Google themselves expressing their love for it.

Speaking to ABC News, a spokesperson for Google said: 

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 anonymised 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.

If Google can find it funny guys, I’m sure you can too.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Technology, algorithm, Berlin, Google, Google Maps, phones, Simon Weckert, smartphones, Traffic jam

Credits

ABC news
  1. ABC news

    Berlin artist uses handcart full of smartphones to trick Google Maps' traffic algorithm into thinking there is traffic jam