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iPhone Map App Steers Users Across Airport Runway

By - Source: Alaska Dispatch | B 15 comments

App Maps is steering users across an airport runway.

The location of the Fairbanks International Airport on my iPhoneThe location of the Fairbanks International Airport on my iPhoneThere's nothing more stressful than having to navigate through unnamed territory. In the old days, we had maps planted in front of our faces, with one eye on the flapping oversized paper and one eye pointed out the windshield. Now physical maps have been replaced by smartphones, tablets and GPS devices, but they still don't make life that much easier, especially when they lead you right into the middle of an airport runway.

That's the drawback of turn-by-turn directions: they may not always be right on the money. At times, these services seem rather idiotic, especially to those who are extremely familiar with the area in question, and know there's a much faster way to get from point A to point B. At times it's as if the turn-by-turn service is paid to steer you wrong.

MORE: iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S4: What Should You Buy?

Regardless, we trust that turn-by-turn navigation services will steer us safely to our destination granted we keep an eye on the road. The Alaska Dispatch reports that the iPhone's Map app has steered out-of-towners into harm's way at least twice in the last three weeks as they journeyed to the Fairbanks International Airport. Instead of directing them correctly through the airport's front gates, the Apple map service directed them directly across a runway.

What's incredible is that in both instances, the drivers had plenty of warnings that they were about to possibly cross into the path on an oncoming 737 or other aircraft, yet they remained glued to the turn-by-turn directions.

According to Angie Spear, marketing director for the airport, the iOS Map app directed both users to the access route that general aviation pilots use to get to the East Ramp, which is on the other side of the runway from the main airport terminal. The navigation ended by telling users to go to Taxiway Bravo, aka "Taxiway B" on the satellite map, but did not tell drivers to cross the main runway in-between.

Good thing they weren't directed to drive over a cliff.

"These folks drove past several signs. They even drove past a gate. None of that cued them that they did something inappropriate,” said Melissa Osborn, chief of operations at the Fairbanks Airport. Once the drivers reached the runway and saw the terminal on the other side, naturally they drove straight ahead and crossed the runway.

The first incident took place on September 6. The driver was using a rental car, and airport personnel, police and the TSA quickly converged on the iPhone owner as soon as he reached his destination. The airport staff complained through the attorney general’s office to Apple, and the fruity company's legal department confirmed that the issue had been corrected.

But it wasn't. Another driver crossed the runway again on September 20. Now the aircraft access route to Taxiway Bravo from the Float Pond Road has been closed until further notice. Apple followed up with a report that the issue would be resolved by Wednesday, but as of Tuesday afternoon, the iPhone app still directed users across the airport runway.

Osborn believes that the navigation system is using the center of the airport's physical property rather than the actual physical address, the latter of which doesn't steer people across a passenger plane's path. Based on looking up the address on our own iPhone, the Maps app pinpoints the destination near a body of water on the airport property, not the actual physical location of the terminal (seen above). Thus Apple's service is directing users to come in through the back and across the runway on the other side of the water. That said, the navigation issue seems to remain.

"It's all fun and games (mostly Hide and Seek) until somebody gets hurt," said Lisa Vaas from security firm Sophos. "Typically, Naked Security writes about information security, but in this most recent case of Apple Maps and the airport runway incidents, it's a case of disinformation leading to serious, tangible, real-world security issues. I don't mean to be a Google fangirl, but Apple, you've been wandering in the wilderness since you divorced Google Maps."

Apple's Maps app, which at one time was powered by Google Maps, has been on iOS since 2007 with the debut of the first iPhone. Apple parted ways with Google with the release of the Maps app back in September 2012.

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This thread is closed for comments
  • 4 Hide
    g00fysmiley , September 30, 2013 6:28 AM
    such a good example of how apple users will follow the device and maker despite all good reasoning saying they should not... you must blindly trust the apple!
  • 9 Hide
    ddpruitt , September 30, 2013 6:54 AM
    Good thing they weren't directed to drive over a cliff.

    I hear that feature is slated for the next version.
  • 0 Hide
    bustapr , September 30, 2013 6:56 AM
    honestly, you have to question the peoples intelligence if they just follow a gps without paying attention to where they are driving. Youd think Apple would invest a little more into updating their app with actual road info. seems as if the app just picks out what looks like a road on the map and throws you at it. if a route isnt registered as a an actual drivable street, then theres no reason to send people in that direction.
  • Display all 15 comments.
  • 6 Hide
    mihaimm , September 30, 2013 7:44 AM
    Good airport security that you can actually get on the driveway with your car! This is an international airport... you'd think they can afford a fence.
  • 0 Hide
    TeraMedia , September 30, 2013 7:59 AM
    They need those tire-poppers like you see at the entrances of rental car places, where driving in the wrong direction means you have to call AAA. Combine that with an employee badge scanner, and there you go.

    If SJ were alive, he'd say something like "you're following it wrong. The App isn't supposed to be taken literally, but rather only to provide a suggestion for an optional route to the approximate destination to which you want to travel." Problem is, some younger people these days struggle immensely without their GPSes. They even seem to have difficulty reading a map, or determining their location or direction/orientation. I say this having often been the one called upon to rescue them.
  • -1 Hide
    unksol , September 30, 2013 9:08 AM
    Who says it was younger people?

    "but did not tell drivers to cross the main runway in-between."
    "Once the drivers reached the runway and saw the terminal on the other side, naturally they drove straight ahead and crossed the runway."

    The map put them in the wrong spot, and apples being ridiculously slow about fixing it, but it doesn't sound like it was the directions. More like they got to where the directions said to go. They stopped. Weren't where they wanted to be, looked around, and then thought "oh there is the terminal, I'll just drive across a runway".

    The Apps bad, but this is all the users. if you're using turn by turn directions to get around in something like an airport anyway that's enough evidence. Maybe you use it to assist you getting into the airport, but once there you read the signs.
  • 0 Hide
    house70 , September 30, 2013 9:27 AM
    LOL. This is hilarious.
    Not only iOS is insecure (see repeated hacks that get fixed, only to introduce more holes in security), but individual apps suck, as well.
    Good luck trying to uninstall this flop.
  • 0 Hide
    EvilMonk , September 30, 2013 9:59 AM
    and if you still get on the runway with your car you still deserve to be opted out by darwinism... damn tomshardware its getting ridiculous to read articles like that. the primary school newspaper in my neighborhood is more serious now :o 
  • 0 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , September 30, 2013 10:02 AM
    I would say Apple just needs to give up and give into Google, thus using Google Maps/Navigation but I love being entertained by Apple Maps fails. What's next? Apple drives its users off of a cliff? I'll put a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Maybe I'll get an iPhone just to see if Apple Maps can get me driving directions from California to Europe. That shouldn't be too hard, right? Just drive across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 2 Hide
    brucek2 , September 30, 2013 1:56 PM
    Dear TSA: If you're going to pat me and every other passenger down before boarding a plane, you might also want to prevent terrorists from just being able to drive up the airplane or gate with a truck bomb.

    Its fun to pick on the defective map app, but bottom line is it just should not be possible for random people to be driving on a runway with 737s regardless of what their map tells them.
  • 0 Hide
    jl0329 , September 30, 2013 3:57 PM
    This piece of *** article made the front page? REALLY?
  • 0 Hide
    shin0bi272 , October 1, 2013 10:17 AM
    You know a lot of terrorists in alaska there brucek2?
  • 0 Hide
    Praveenkumarpkm , November 5, 2013 6:38 AM
    Apple's iphone is playing major role against its competitors especially in US. September report (for details ) says that iPhone 5s is the top selling phone in US.
  • 0 Hide
    Praveenkumarpkm , November 5, 2013 6:39 AM
    Apple's iphone is playing major role against its competitors especially in US. September report (for details ) says that iPhone 5s is the top selling phone in US.
  • 0 Hide
    Praveenkumarpkm , November 5, 2013 6:39 AM
    Apple's iphone is playing major role against its competitors especially in US. September report (for details ) says that iPhone 5s is the top selling phone in US.
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