Google Maps, like navigation app Waze, provides real-time traffic information which is vital to daily commutes and simply getting from place to place. Using smart phone locations, Google can see how fast people are moving.
But one German artist proved the Google Maps can't tell if those people are actually in cars.
Simon Weckert (opens in new tab), who specializes in technology-related works, performed an experiment in which he attempted to generate a virtual traffic jam in Google Maps. This entailed buying 99 used smartphones, enabling Google Maps on each of them, piling them in a child's little red wagon and walking through the streets of Berlin pulling the wagon behind him.
In the video Google Maps Hacks (opens in new tab) you can see traffic build on Google Maps, despite the near-absence of cars along the road where Weckert toted his wagon of smartphones.
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! #googlemapshacks https://t.co/3gixMxopE6 pic.twitter.com/6KcMm1XgAFFebruary 1, 2020
Though Weckert's experiment is a metaphor for how humans interact with modern maps, I can't help but wonder if this would work to keep the roads near my apartment clear by making other drivers avoid the area.
Of course, this would require me to buy a bunch of old smartphones and station them properly, charge them up, etc.
In other words, it's unlikely Google Maps users will recreate Weckert's art and abuse the navigation app. But it's still possible Google will adjust its algorithms to recognize devices are too close to each other (a.k.a piled together in a little red wagon) when generating traffic conditions.
See our list of the best Google Maps features for more on how to make the best of the navigational app.