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Hilarious Google Maps prank creates ‘virtual traffic jam’ on quiet streets

When the dreaded red roads are displayed within Google Maps, it generally means you’re in for a longer journey than usual. Unless, of course, it’s artist Simon Weckert dragging around a cart fulls of phones creating virtual traffic jams.

In an interesting experiment, Simon manipulated the hive mind that Google uses to make projections about the current traffic levels in a certain area. He trailed around a hand-pulled cart containing 99 smartphones all with Google Maps’ navigation mode open.

When Google Maps picked up this flow of slow-moving traffic in a condensed area, the live map changed to reflect a slower flow of traffic. Ironically, because the prank had created the jam in the streets, other drivers were redirected away from the congestion, meaning Simon was conducting his experiment in near-empty streets. He even took the cart for a trip around the outside of Google’s Berlin headquarters.

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He writes in the video description: “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 to avoid being stuck in traffic.”

While harmless and just for fun, the trick does show how easily a tool like Google Maps could be manipulated to show incorrect information.

Google itself responded to a 9to5Google report saying it also uses other factors to determine whether to expect a slower flow of traffic, and that the sources are used are refreshed constantly in order to assure the best possible accuracy. The company even said experiments like Simon’s actually make Google Maps better over time.

“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,” the firm said in the statement.

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