5 Ridiculous Google Maps Mishaps That Prove You Can't Always Trust Technology

5 Ridiculous Google Maps Mishaps That Prove You Can't Always Trust Technology

Convenient, yes. Foolproof... no.

By Karen Gardiner

What did people ever do without Google Maps (and TomTom and MapQuest)? If you are of the age group that actually remembers such days, you might be surprised to learn that this is an actual question pondered by a generation that has grown up with the ability to simply type an address into their phone and find their way there. "How did people drive before GPS devices became mainstream?" asked one Quora user sincerely, to whom respondents carefully explained the concepts of paper maps, asking for directions, and printed MapQuest directions.

Nostalgia for depending upon a copilot, getting lost, and actually having to talk to strangers aside, travel is a lot easier nowadays with Google (or Apple) Maps in the palms of our hands. But that's not to say it is always a fool-proof way of getting somewhere, as these particularly memorable mishaps prove.

1. When it Shut Down an Underwater Tunnel

Last month, a Turkish cyclist following Google Maps caused a 4.5-mile-long underwater tunnel in Norway to be shut down. None of the tunnel's three lanes are meant for cyclists. And when, exhausted by the steep incline, the tourist sat down in the middle of tunnel traffic, guards shut the whole thing down. "Police went on a rescue mission from both sides of the tunnel, according to Travel + Leisure, "and reopened the roads as soon as the man and his bike were in a police car. The tunnel was closed for about 30 minutes. The man only spoke Turkish, but was able to show police that he ended up in the tunnel after following Google Maps directions. No charges were pressed against the cyclist."

2. When it Caused a Small Village to be Overrun by Tourists

Norway's Preikestolen cliff (or, Pulpit Rock) is a favorite spot for travelers looking to get that epic selfie. Unfortunately a glitch on Google Maps keeps sending people to the village of Fossmark, 18 miles away, instead.

“We have sent hundreds of tourists away in no uncertainty that they’re on the wrong side of the fjord. In the summer season up to 10 to 15 cars show up each day,” a resident told the Stavanger Aftenblad newspaper. “When we are in the cabin, sometimes two, three, four, or five tourists come in. Every day. They say they are going to Preikestolen and understand nothing,” added another. “Google Maps leads them over the Lysefjord bridge and into Fossmork. The road here is quite narrow and it they sometimes get quite upset when we tell them to go back.” 

3. When it Inspired an Army to Invade a Neighboring Country

This one's more serious than a mere travel "mishap." In 2010, Nicaraguan troops crossed the border into Costa Rica, took down a Costa Rican flag, and raised their own. The troops’ commander, Eden Pastora, told the Costa Rican newspaper, La Nacion, that his invasion was not his fault, because Google Maps mistakenly said the territory belonged to Nicaragua. Google quickly took responsibility and owned up to the error on their maps, but the fact that the Nicaraguan troops didn't immediately retreat from land that had long been a source of tension between the two nations, led many to suspect that blaming Google Maps was just a convenient diversion.

4. When it Destroyed a Home

Seems that Google Maps has become a convenient fall guy over the years. In Texas, a couple had their home torn down because the demolition company got the location of the building they were supposed to be tearing down wrong. Did the company own up to perhaps not being totally rigorous in their planning? Nope, they blamed it on Google Maps. If they had double checked, Engadget pointed out, they would have found both Apple Maps and MapQuest showing the correct location. And they really should have double checked: As the Verge wrote: "I don't even trust Google Maps to tell me which direction I'm facing when I get out of the subway. When I really need to get somewhere on time, I get there early to make sure I've been pointed to the actual address. So when you are going to an address to demolish it, I highly suggest confirming with, say, no less than two points of signage that you are at the right address. Asking a human at that location might be a good idea, too."

5. When it Offers Fun (But Fake) Advice

On a more lighthearted note, coming across Google Maps' "easter eggs" is always a joy. Want to travel by public transport from Snowdonia to Brecon Beacons, Wales? It gives you the option of hitching a ride on a dragon. How about riding the Loch Ness Monster from Fort Augustus to Loch Uruqhart Castle in Scotland? Those who really travel in style can jump aboard the Royal Carriage between Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

One final tip: If you do find yourself led astray by Google Maps, don't just ignore the issue. Send a report to Google to get it fixed. In the meantime, do yourself a favor... and learn to read an old-school map!

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