Google Maps error leads unsuspecting travelers into the middle of the Mojave desert


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The big picture: Google Maps has made navigation extremely easy and can be a lifesaver in unknown areas. However, it's definitely not perfect and can sometimes make mistakes that can create massive problems for travelers. Reports of the app leading people astray come up every now and again, and the latest error created massive problems for a group of Californians returning home from the recent Formula One Grand Prix in Las Vegas.

According to SFGate, Shelby Easler, her brother Austin, and their partners were driving back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas on November 19, using Google Maps for navigation. The group reportedly decided to take an alternative route off Interstate 15 after the app informed them that a dust storm was causing delays on the freeway. The app also showed that the off-road route was 50 minutes faster, making it a bit of a no-brainer.

However, the alternative route turned out to be too good to be true, as it led them into the middle of the Mojave Desert, where the dust storm and the rough terrain badly damaged their car. As it turned out, theirs wasn't the only car to get into trouble by following Google Maps, as a bunch of other vehicles were also similarly misled by the app.

@justdoingshelbythings Still stuck in vegas send help ð­ #vegas #stuckinthedesert #f1 #freewayclosed #offroading #trafficjam #lost #sos #wherearewe #desert #donkeys ⬠origineel geluid - Tik Toker

The stranded families called 911 for help, but the California Highway Patrol reportedly refused to drive down to their location, citing increased workload due to the dust storm. Realizing that they were stranded in the middle of the desert, Easler says her group tried to turn around their car and get back to the main road by making their way through the sand and the bushes. However, they could only travel a short distance before their car got damaged and they got trapped once again.

The group eventually reached a nearby gas station after several hours of driving, and went to the nearest airport to fly back home. As for the car, it was towed to a service center in Vegas, where it underwent expensive repairs before it became roadworthy again.

Recounting the incident, Easler said they thought the alternative route suggested by Google Maps would be a safer option in the middle of the dust storm, and the fact that it was supposed to be 50 minutes faster made it an obvious choice. She added that it was their first time driving to and from Vegas, and none of them knew that the I-15 was pretty much the only route for that trip. Having learned her lesson the hard way, she told SFGate, "In the future, I'll stick to the road I know and double-check somewhere else if the route seems sketchy."

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If some smart guy marked that "road" as good to use the software will also. Now it's up to humans to decide if they follow or not. Had the same issue in Greece with I-Go many years ago, but after 20 seconds I turned around.
Any sane person should - at the very least (especially where there are hazardous / inhospitable areas in the vicinity) - zoom in and out of Google Maps to see where the heck they're going!

And then decide accordingly, sheesh!!
I personally use both Google maps and Waze at the same time to prevent this and minimize my travel time for the best root. I am currently working in Bridgeport Connecticut and am constantly getting calls from clients in Bridgeport Michigan because Google can't tell the difference. 🤪
"Never take no cutoffs and hurry along as fast as you can." - Virginia Reed, Survivor of the Donner Party Expedition

Advice holds true even now. Plenty of times I'm in the middle of nowhere and Google is giving me almost too good to be true shortcut advice and I'm like "Nope, this is a main road, there are plenty of other cars around, no way I'm taking some back country road at 11 at night to save 30 minutes".
For as massive a company as Google is, having this kind of perpetual problem that has gone on for over a decade is inexcuseable and they should be held accountable, in full.

And apple who invented putting people into the ocean with their awful navigation
Shoot, people are driving off bridges that are MISSING, driving into the ocean from a boat launch etc. Heck, they have warning labels on Tide Pods to tell people not to eat them just because they are colorful.
And you expect Google to figure out a way to stop people from doing this?
Signed up just to comment. When visiting the same area some 7 years ago, Google Maps did the same thing to us. Took us down Old Nipton Desert Rd to try and avoid congestion. Lucky we were able to turn the rental car around, and they didn't ask any questions when we arrived in Vegas.
The only good result pursuing that would be for the lawyers.
IDK, I was very successful in suing my predatory solar company which put up more solar panels than I had purchased or authorized. I got a $50k solar installation for $12k after winning the case. Then I gave my evidence to the other customers who were also scammed and they formed a class action against the company.