One of the most useful features of Google Maps is its ability to see when there’s a traffic jam coming up so that you can anticipate it and take a different route if you’d like. Recently, though, one person showed how you can create a traffic jam in Google Maps using zero cars.
Artist Simon Weckert has posted a video showing himself pulling a small wagon with 99 smartphones all running Google Maps. As he continues to walk, you can see the road on Google Maps getting red, indicating a traffic jam.
As Weckert explains, this can have an effect in the real world, as people in cars using Google Maps to navigate will be routed away from the area so that they won’t get stuck in traffic, too. Except in this case, there is no traffic.
Google responded to the “hack” by explaining that the traffic data in Google Maps is refreshed continuously from many sources, including anonymized data from phones that have location services turned on and using contributions from the Google Maps community.
“We’ve launched the ability to distinguish between cars and motorcycles in several countries including India, Indonesia and Egypt, though we haven’t quite cracked traveling by wagon,” Google told 9to5Google. “We appreciate seeing creative uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better over time.”
It’s definitely fun to see the road in Google Maps slowly turn red as Weckert keeps walking down it, creating a “traffic jam” even though there aren’t even any moving vehicles on that part of the road. Check it out for yourself in the video above.