Google Maps is the application most used today for GPS navigation; especially since they allow downloading maps offline and we can use it in roaming without problems in Europe. With so many people with mobile phones using it, Google uses that data to determine where there are traffic jams. However, this system is very easy to deceive as Simon Weckert has shown.
This mischievous man put 99 phones with Google Maps open in a cart , and made a person take the car through various streets of Berlin, including near Google offices. With this, the navigation application believes that there are many users on those streets standing moving very slowly, intuiting then that they were in a traffic jam.
It’s that easy to trolley to Google Maps
Google normally uses data from at least 20 mobiles before determining if there is a jam or not, analyzing data such as speed and location. If they detect that there is a traffic jam in a site, then proceed to calculate an alternative route. In the following video we can see how it was carried out, where traffic changes in real time as the cart passes.
Google Maps usually detects the occasional false positive in areas such as shopping centers, where there are many cars parking moving at low speed, where then usually intuit that there is a traffic jam. Here, having dozens of mobiles moving at low speed, it is also believed that there is a traffic jam. If they were still it would not be detected as a traffic jam. The problem is that an approximate data based on mobile networks is used for the location, since normally the precise location of the GPS is turned off to save some battery. Thus, although the mobiles go in the same cart, the margin of error is at least a dozen meters, so it can be perfectly a group of cars driving slowly in the eyes of Google Maps.
The dangers of Google Maps calculating alternative routes
Although it may seem innocent, such actions can be very dangerous in the future. For example, if they know that someone makes a route frequently, they can take you to another site to finally end up in a different place with no exit or where they can ambush you.
Someone driving today may realize, but with an autonomous car this can be really serious since you don’t even need to do a spoofing attack , as in the Upgrade movie. They may also divert to emergency services to take longer to reach a site, or they can simulate a traffic jam at a single exit point such as a bridge, or redirect cars to a paid road.