Google Maps: a user tricked the traffic algorithm

A German artist exploited a Google Maps "flaw" to his advantage, creating a traffic jam on a clear street out of nowhere. Here's how

Is it possible to fool the algorithms used by Google Maps to capture traffic information? Apparently it would seem so and, according to a video circulating on YouTube, it wouldn't even be too complicated.

Or, at least, that's what German artist Simon Weckert wants us to think. The young "visual artist" has created an experiment in Berlin, near the German headquarters of Google, to show how it is possible to "circumvent" the usually precise algorithms of Google Maps and transform (in the graphical interface of the app) a clear road into a road with an endless traffic jam.

How Google Maps works

To fully understand the "artistic" experiment conducted by Simon Weckert it is necessary, first of all, to see how Google Maps works and how it shows live what the traffic conditions are. To tell the truth, it's not that complicated: Big G exploits the GPS signal of smartphones (even if Google Maps is not active and in use) to track the movements of users and assess their speed. In case a sufficiently large number of devices are going slower than the speed limit, then it is presumable that there is a slowdown on that stretch of road.

Google Maps Hacks: the experiment

Weckert managed to exploit to his advantage the operation behind the traffic detection of Google Maps to instantly "clog" a road. He simply loaded 99 smartphones onto a hand-drawn cart and started walking around the vicinity of Google's Berlin office, causing a traffic jam to appear out of nowhere that didn't actually exist in reality (but was visualized by the app).

A help to Google?

The young Berliner's experiment shows how, after all, it is possible to influence and modify the algorithms that manage the city's traffic flow on Google Maps. Not only that, this experiment has allowed to acquire precise and important indications that could be useful to the same Big G that could revise its algorithms to improve its service, perhaps through a kind of "reverse engineering".