How traffic on Google Maps was faked with a bunch of phones

How traffic on Google Maps was faked with a bunch of phones
One of the benefits of having a service as dominant as Google’s is that the massive amount of user data can be used for some handy features that benefit us all. Such is the case with Google Maps. Beyond all the restaurants and other points of interest you can find on there, one vital feature Maps offers is traffic information.

Knowing in advance which streets are busy can not only save you time on your daily commute but can help you catch a flight or not miss an important meeting. The way Google gathers traffic data is through devices that use Google Maps. Through location services, Google knows where and how fast people are moving. A bunch of smartphones slowly moving on a street? That’s a traffic jam right there! Or is it?

Not in one particular case, it’s not. Simon Weckert, a German artist that focuses on technology-related projects, decided to perform a small experiment. He bought 99 used smartphones, turned on Google Maps on each of them, loaded them in a handcart and hit the streets.

The goal was simple: see if his lonely cart can make an empty street show as a traffic-packed road on Google Maps. The results can be seen in the video below.



Assuming no foul play was involved in this project, the concept worked as expected. Not long after the cart enters a street, its color on Google Maps changes from green to red, signaling users to avoid it.

While it’s unlikely that someone would abuse this mechanic, with the attention Simon’s stunt has gathered, Google might make some tweaks to its algorithms to ignore data from devices that are too close to each other.

Still, it was cool to see something many have probably thought about put to the test. And with no harm being done, we can only applaud the effort.

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6 Comments

9. Vokilam

Posts: 1481; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

What if I don’t want google to track me/use my location and speed while I’m using google maps?

7. Gryffin

Posts: 96; Member since: Dec 19, 2018

what made google think that these aren't a bunch of people walking / travelling in a bus.

8. TBomb

Posts: 1750; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

valid question i think. it's possible that accelerometer data gets used too. Walking would have a different movement pattern than bus riding.

10. KingSam

Posts: 1543; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

Also when you open maps and navigate you can select car, bus or walking.

2. s_boy

Posts: 37; Member since: Nov 30, 2013

Why waste money on 99 phones to prove something that works? Which other morons are going to buy a bunch of phones and do the same thing?

6. tuminatr

Posts: 1185; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

Exactly no surprise here, the same thing is faked with a google search. Search John Smith president (hopefully a made up name) enough times and it will start to trend and you can shape the news / public option. I think its called Google Bombing

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