Navigation apps aren’t just great in giving directions but they are also extremely useful in providing the best route thanks to real time traffic information. Since it relies on crowdsourced data, the real-time information can be manipulated if you have a significant sample size. Artist Simon Weckert has managed to do just that to Google Maps with a wagon cart filled with 99 phones.
To fool Google Maps into thinking there’s a traffic jam, he run Google Maps on 99 phones and then drag it along a number of streets in Berlin with a wagon cart. What’s hilarious is that he even did it on a street where Google’s Berlin office was located.
With a high concentration of phones moving at a slow pace, Google Maps was fooled into thinking there’s an actual traffic congestion on the road. As shown in the video, you can see how the traffic layer slowly turns from green to dark red.
This just proves that crowdsourced traffic data can be manipulated if it is done at a larger scale. If a road is flagged as congested, Google Maps users would be directed to use other routes and there’s a potential this trick can be used for malicious purposes.
It would be interesting to see if the same “hack” can be used in reverse. Imagine a couple of motorcycles cutting through heavy traffic with hundreds of phones running Google Maps. Anyone keen to try?