Artist Fakes Google Maps Traffic Jams With 99 iPhones

Hoping to draw attention to the systems we take for granted.

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Arts
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Three years ago, Berlin-based artist Simon Weckert noticed at the May Day demonstrations in Berlin that while there was no traffic on the road, Google Maps had shown that there was a traffic jam where he was located. Realizing that the app had actually simply picked up on the number of people — or more accurately, their smartphones — in the location, he decided to replicate the phenomenon.

To do so, he borrowed and rented 99 iPhones from friends and various outlets, putting them all onto a little red trolley which he towed around on the streets of Berlin, most of which were pretty empty, as you can see in the video above. As expected, after roughly an hour or so, Google Maps had caught up and turned the streets he was on red, indicating traffic jams. Weckert’s experiment and the performance had worked: he managed to fake Google Maps into thinking that an empty road was highly congested with traffic.

Noting this performance, Google responded with the following statement:

“Traffic data in Google Maps is refreshed continuously thanks to information from a variety of sources, including aggregated anonymized data from people who have location services turned on and contributions from the Google Maps community. We appreciate seeing creative uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better over time.”

Google also explained that while the Maps app can distinguish between cars and motorcycles, it does not currently have to ability to detect a similar experiment such as Weckert’s.

Elsewhere in the arts, Yoshimoto Nara’s painting may fetch up to $4 million USD at Christie’s London auction.

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