back to article Artful prankster creates Google Maps traffic jams by walking a cartful of old phones around Berlin

A German artist has had a bit of fun with Google Maps after tricking its free satnav service into displaying traffic jams – by walking around with a hand cart full of mobile phones. Simon Weckert's performance art piece, titled Google Maps Hacks, is very simple. Weckert walked around the roads of Berlin pulling a small hand …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Can't stop smiling

    This deserves one big thumbs up! And now my mischievous streak is now thinking how to top it!

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Can't stop smiling

      999 smartphones along the M5/M6 junction?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can't stop smiling

        There are probably at least 999 smartphones going nowhere particularly fast at the M6/M5 junction for several hours every day, even without having to fool the map/jams system, surely?

        1. Def Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Can't stop smiling

          Then maybe you should catapult them along the road to "clear" the jam (and ultimately make it worse).

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Can't stop smiling

            There's still the old "AA/Vodaphone Roadsmart" network of roadside average speed radars. Used to have one of their receivers... Now that was a functional UI. Just a simple dotmatrix single digit LED display to indicate direction and 3 LEDS to indicate distance.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Can't stop smiling

              * Personal Roadwatch 1800.

              Apparently they say they are starting to decommission the sensor heads and now rely on certified GPS receivers. In my mind, a step backwards. There was also Trafficmaster Y2Q which used the same network of sensors.

      2. chivo243 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Can't stop smiling

        I was thinking 9 people pulling a cart full of 99 phones, walking together, then splitting up, wandering here and there, meeting back up, splitting up, finally meeting again, maybe in some strategic location...

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Can't stop smiling

          Bonus Internet points if you can get it to write some naughty words in google maps (or just draw a giant penis)!!!

        2. Drew Scriver Bronze badge
          Happy

          Re: Can't stop smiling

          Expanding on the idea a bit. Remember the old 'art' of writing words on a calculator screen?

          1) Find a US city with a nice grid pattern street layout.

          2) Map out a word onto the street layout.

          3) Get a couple of dozen people together, each with 100 or so phones in a backpack.

          3) Station each of the participants at a predetermined intersection.

          4) Have each person walk (or bike) around their designated city block until Google Maps shows the word online.

          1. Pinemarten

            Re: Can't stop smiling >> app drawings

            Sorry mate, already done, Uk artist Anthony Hoyte has been doing this for years, drawing Xmas pics with a tracker app on his bike round the streets of london and elsewhere .....

            Google " Cyclist creates festive reindeer on map app" for BBC story. cheers,

            1. ChrisC

              Re: Can't stop smiling >> app drawings

              I think our Spoonerism-afflicted hand tool was trying to suggest that if enough people collaborated, it'd be possible to get Google Maps to display the desired word/phrase *in realtime* as a traffic jam highlight, which would be rather more of an achievement than merely tracing out a recognisable image within a recorded GPS track for viewing *after* the event, which is something god only knows how many of us have done at least once whilst playing around with GPS trackers... If I dusted off my own data archives, somewhere I'd find all of the track data I captured getting on for 20 years ago walking around London with my old Garmin eTrex, which IIRC includes tracks showing the outline of the Isle of Dogs and some of its larger docks, Hyde Park and the Serpentine, and the route of the Circle line (or as close to it as you can get by following footpaths above ground).

      3. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Can't stop smiling

        Just in the bus lane.

    2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Can't stop smiling

      @chivo243

      Hack the Uber app to send them all to the same 'Adult Store' car park on the A1?

      1. Evil Scot

        Re: Can't stop smiling

        Which one? Or will I have to find a back way to the cinema?

    3. SotarrTheWizard
      Trollface

      Re: Can't stop smiling

      Break them up in groups of 5 or less, mount on drones. . . .each hovering ~10-20 meters off the motorway.. . .both sides.

      And then send them moving AGAINST traffic. . .

    4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  2. Bitsminer

    Ingenious

    Now, send him to Los Angeles and walk his 50 phones *faster* than the traffic on the 405. That will confuse the Google AI to no end!

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: Ingenious

      Slight problem with that...

      > Inside the cart were 99 "secondhand smartphones".

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Ingenious

        Do you need phones and do you need to be in the location in question? Easy enough to fire up a load of emulators and spoof the gps. You don't even need to leave home.

        Phones in a helicopter would be more fun though.

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Ingenious

          You could tie each phone to a balloon to make life easier, maybe coloured red for easy identification.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Ingenious

            99 of them?

            Worry, worry, super scurry, Call the troops out in a hurry

          2. Dinanziame
            Mushroom

            Re: Ingenious

            Thank you, it's in my head now

            1. Totally not a Cylon

              Re: Ingenious

              English or German version?

              1. MyffyW Silver badge

                Re: Ingenious

                Hast du etwas Zeit für mich?

            2. Ordinary Donkey

              Re: Ingenious

              There must be a way to make neunundneunzig alte telefone scan?

              1. Spamfast
                Happy

                Re: Ingenious

                neunundneunzig alte telefone

                Erm ... "neunundneunzig alte Handys" please.

                It's a bit of a cheesy loan word but it's pretty ubiquitous.

                1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

                  Re: Ingenious

                  Stephen Fry saying "Handy" in a German accent is fantastic TV.

                  1. Spamfast

                    Re: Ingenious

                    Stephen Fry saying "Handy" in a German accent is fantastic TV.

                    Was quite funny, yes.

                    In the same vein, I remember an episode of Friends where Lisa Kudrow takes the piss out of an American acquaintance back from a stay in England insisting on calling her cellphone a "mobile". (Along with using "bugger" & "arse".)

                    (Demonstrating my age there, along with the fact that I don't get to choose the TV channel!)

                2. Ordinary Donkey

                  Re: Ingenious

                  Yes, Handys scans.

                  It's been a while, long enough that Friends was in mid-run, do you always pronounce the e at the end of alte? If we can say alt-handys then it fits. Or maybe misthandys?

          3. Diez66

            Re: Ingenious

            Red balloons?

            1. illiad

              Re: Ingenious

              https://youtu.be/7aLiT3wXko0

          4. T-Unit

            Re: Ingenious

            Fun fact: There is no mention of them being red in the original German version. That was inserted into the English one to make the syllable count scan better.

            Also Nena (the original band) don't really like the English translation claiming it "We made a mistake there. I think the song loses something in translation and even sounds silly."

            1. BoldMan

              Re: Ingenious

              I prefer the German version and I don't even speak German! Saw her at the one concert she did in UK at that time at the Drury Lane theatre, it was magic!

              1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

                Re: Ingenious

                Just looked up the German lyrics and tried to sing them (in my head otherwise it would be mightily embarrassing!) but I just can't make them fit the music I remember.

                If there's one thing worse than an ear worm is the stress of an ear worm that doesn't work!

            2. Stork Silver badge

              Re: Ingenious

              It does lose by translation - the rhymes work much better in German to start with, the English version is a bit forced.

        2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

          Re: Ingenious

          Phones in a helicopter hovering, yes.

          Phones in a helicopter that was moving would probably be disregarded as anomalous readings by Google, because they'd be moving too much faster than the average. Even though 99 of them would arguably tip the average in their favour, having them all appear at the same time quickly would probably show up.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Ingenious

            I wonder if maps pays attention to GPS elevation information?

        3. Test Man

          Re: Ingenious

          I would say that a helicopter won't work - the location wouldn't be correlated by the wifi the phones pass by for a start

      2. chivo243 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Ingenious

        I think one of those phones was red and owned by a woman named Nena?

        1. Imhotep

          Re: Ingenious

          Oh jeez, you're old. But you got an upvote from me.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Ingenious

            What do you mean, "old"? It was just a few years ago... Oh, wait - was it that long ago??

            I'm old!!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ingenious

            It's a timeless song that still gets a fair bit of airplay today!

            But, yes, it is also of its time. The lyrics (either version) relate very much to what we all might potentially wake up to on any given day in the 1980s. Looking back, it all seems so strange and otherworldly now, but the Cold War really did have a very icy chill in the air for so many years.

            1. ChrisC

              Re: Ingenious

              And yet, despite the ever present threat of global nuclear annihilation, the world felt so much safer back then. At least to the teen version of myself back in those days. *sigh* some days I just wish I could go back to the 80's for a while, where the winters were cold and snowy, the summers long and hot, and the home computer scene at its peak...

            2. Stork Silver badge

              Re: Ingenious

              Absolutely. I am born in the late 60es and grew up less than 200km from DDR in direct line; my dad patrolled the sea border with Poland in the mid 50es (they just sailed along, the Polish opposites had their guns manned).

              What has struck me, after meeting my Portuguese wife, was that here it was just not an issue the was much discussed - really Someone Else's Problem (Not sure about the apostrophe there)

              1. defiler Silver badge

                Re: Ingenious

                it was just not an issue the was much discussed

                Well, what are you going to do? There's not much you can do to affect the minds of those who can go and annihilate the world, so you might as well just get on with living.

                Different game if you were one of the tank crews that knew damn fine they were just fodder to hold up the Soviets long enough to unleash the missiles, of if you were a bomber crew sitting at 2-minute alert (or less at times), or if you were a submarine crew with standing orders to attack Soviet cities if you couldn't get a signal from home when you surfaced. Those people I'm sure had a very different outlook on things, but they were (and still are) very much a minority, thankfully.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Ingenious

      "walk his 50 phones *faster* than the traffic on the 405"

      No, get William Shatner to do it.

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    How easy it is to fool

    these services that we increasingly rely on. This guy did it as a prank and probably caused little harm. What if he had been malicious ?

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: How easy it is to fool

      Coming to a Hollywood heist movie soon.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: How easy it is to fool

        Yet another re-make of The Italian Job?

        Icon to pre-empt the obvious jokes ---------->

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: How easy it is to fool

          iTalian Job

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: How easy it is to fool

            Now I'm thinking The Itanium Job. No, I don't know why.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How easy it is to fool

          > Yet another re-make of The Italian Job?

          Trump could have a cameo playing the Benny Hill part.

          https://www.shutterstock.com/editorial/image-editorial/the-italian-job-1969-5886248aw

        3. Huw D Silver badge

          Re: How easy it is to fool

          The last remake wasn't in Italy and there wasn't really a job.

          Coming to a cinema near you ... "The"

    2. Smooth Newt
      Happy

      Re: How easy it is to fool

      I wouldn't be surprised to find this sort of trick has been used for years to boost the apparent popularity of various pubs and clubs etc. It's probably even easier than creating fake traffic jams because you can use your venue's WiFi and so don't need a box of SIMs.

      See e.g. https://support.google.com/business/answer/6263531

    3. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: How easy it is to fool

      What if he had been malicious ?

      Which is exactly the line which will be taken by the talking heads on Faux News as thousands of teen pranksters are rounded up by Our Brave Boys (TM) and banged up for 20 years.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How easy it is to fool

      Obligatory engineer Montgomery Scott quote.....

      "The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: How easy it is to fool

        Tsk! EVERYONE's a Captain Kirk.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: How easy it is to fool

      " This guy did it as a prank and probably caused little harm. What if he had been malicious ?"

      It strikes me as a hell of a way to game Waze and other apps that cause Rat Running down suburban streets.

  4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Works for Waze too

    I've heard of folks doing the same thing for Waze, to make their quiet side streets seem busy & so avoid drivers being rerouted down them when main roads get busy.

    1. mittfh
      Big Brother

      Re: Works for Waze too

      Guess who's owned Waze since mid 2013?

    2. fnusnu

      Re: Works for Waze too

      Waze gives you a credibility weighting to prevent this.

    3. T-Unit

      Re: Works for Waze too

      Waze asks other users for confirmation and takes the numbers into account when re-routing. You'd either need to do this same thing with many phones or report an incident (crash, roadworks etc) to affect it. In the former case, one or two cars passing through unimpeded would undo your work, and in the latter case a few users hitting "not there" would undo it.

      On top of that, if you are frequently reporting things that other users mark as incorrect, a behind-the-scenes credibility score drops and the weighting of your input is reduced.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dispositive?

    I don't think it means what he thinks it means.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Dispositive?

      He's an artist. They slip unfamiliar words into every description of a piece of artwork.

    2. Blazde
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Dispositive?

      If we knew what the pretentious phrases meant they wouldn't be pretentious would they, silly.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dispositive?

      He means 'device'.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Dispositive?

        "He means 'device'."

        This

        I bet it was lost in translation

  6. TechnicalBen Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Knew it.

    Ever since a lorry stopped in front of me (but before I stopped/slowed down) on an empty country track to make a delivery, and Google somehow "magically" knew there was "traffic" in that exact spot. ;)

    Possibly a little bit of a security risk too. :/

    1. LosD

      Re: Knew it.

      You knew what was common knowledge ever since Google started tracking traffic? Well done!

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Knew it.

        Well, considering most of us come from dumb terminal style sat navs... I could either

        a) read the 25 pages of "terms and conditions" to tell if Google were tracking me via the map app

        b) Notice the maps know when cars stop/traffic appears before any other means (reports/traffic detectors at junctions, etc).

        But thank for the snark. You must be great at parties. XD

        1. David Nash

          Re: Knew it.

          To be fair, all you have to do is think "how does Google know there's slow traffic here?" and the answer is pretty obvious.

          1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Knew it.

            I gave a multiple options. The answer is pretty obvious depending on where you live. If in the middle of London/a bit city, they already have traffic scanners/CCTV working the (back then) existing "updates" for traffic.

            But continue mentioning how obvious it is... now, that it's common tech/everywhere, vs the very very first instance of the app.

            1. moiety Silver badge

              Re: Knew it.

              It's Google. If you need to read the smallprint to decide whether they're tracking you, you need your cynicism gland looking at.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think this does as much as people think

    All of the photoso show him walking along deserted streets. So Google sees a slow moving batch of vehicles and interprets it as a traffic jam becuase it has no data to indicate otherwise.

    If you tried to do this to cause a problem on a road that contains other traffic (either will a trolley full of phones, or by spoofed GPS readings, as some people were suggesting on Twatter), I imagine that the cars passing at normal speed would demonstrate to Google that there was no problem. If that wasn't the case, you would see roads marked as red each time a bus pulls in at a bus stop.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

      As far as I can tell this is not always the case. As passing through an old "traffic" area does not seem to clear it currently anyhow.

      1. Test Man

        Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

        It depends - there's clearly an algorithm that is working it out based on number of phones in a given area and type of road. 99 phones down a country lane = 99 cars all moving slowly so probably traffic. 99 phones down a motorway with hundreds of cars also in the same spot moving quickly - less probable traffic (although maybe shows one lane closed? Remember GPS isn't that accurate).

        1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

          Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

          > 99 phones =

          A tram? A couple of buses?

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

            People on trams and buses aren't usually following driving directions on google maps though, so their phones won't all be actively sending tracking data to google (well, not for the purpose of giving driving directions, anyway).

            1. T-Unit

              Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

              I never trust those trams to go where they say

            2. Scott 53

              Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

              I as in Lisbon last year and about 30% of the people on trams and buses had Google Maps out so they knew where to get off, myself included.

              1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

                Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

                But they would be in public transport mode, not driving.

        2. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

          "there's clearly an algorithm that is working it"

          But not an algorithm capable of realising that it's 99 cars stacked one on top of the other.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

      I imagine that the cars passing at normal speed would demonstrate to Google that there was no problem.

      Depends on the ratio of slow-moving phones to fast-moving ones. Just a few fast ones passing the bunch of slow ones may well be fast bikies, mopeds or motorcycles, and not necessarily showing there's no jam

    3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

      That has been a vulnerability for many years. Cañada Road in San Mateo county, California shows as congested when there are a lot of hikers or cyclists on the adjacent trails.

    4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

      @AC

      Google Maps is smart enough to sift moving traffic from static traffic, on a recent trip it would tell me 'stopped vehicle on the hard shoulder ahead', so understood that the lanes were moving, but the hard shoulder was blocked. In this case I imagine it would interpret some vehicles stuck behind a slow moving obstruction while others were able to pass.

      1. Gordon861

        Re: I don't think this does as much as people think

        That might have just been a reported incident. I often get a pop-up asking if the vehicle/mobil camera are still there.

  8. oiseau Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Hello:

    ... don't think it means what he thinks it means.

    No, not in English:

    ---

    dispositive - adjective

    law US specialized

    uk: /dɪsˈpɒz.ə.tɪv/

    us: /dɪsˈpɑː.zə.t̬ɪv/

    deciding a matter finally, or relating to the process of doing this:

    No single factor is ordinarily dispositive.

    The surveyor left off the original boundary lines, and that proved to be the dispositive fact in this appeal.

    ---

    The chap is German, but in French (eg: dispositif), in Spanish (eg: dispositivo) and probably other languages with the same shared roots, it can also mean device or machinery, etc.

    O.

  9. TheProf Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Performance? Art?

    'Oh yes, I'm totally an artist. I walked around town with 99 smartphones so it looked like a traffic jam. I totally fucked up the city and then I had a deep and meaningful discussion about it in the artists' club. Except Hans was late, the bastard, and Greta still hasn't showed. Still, kudos for me for coming up with the best art Berlin has seen since well, since ever.'

    So much less impressive than those joggers who use Strava to draw a giant cock in Central Park.

    1. Psmo Bronze badge

      Re: Performance? Art?

      Still a better story than Twilight.

    2. foxyshadis

      Re: Performance? Art?

      Unless every single car in the city is now self-driving and navigating entirely off of Google Maps, and all heading in the same direction, this didn't "fuck up the city." It caused a few people using GM to pick alternate routes, probably mostly rideshare drivers, and confused the hell out of a few people who stayed on the road anyway.

      And, you know, it's white hat hacking that points out a potential problem in a system in a relatively benign way.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Performance? Art?

      > I totally fucked up the city

      No, he totally didn't.

    4. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

      Re: Performance? Art?

      "Performance art" is pretty much a pretentious way of saying "doing something". This is at least useful, making it better than 99% of the things that are given the name(eg, one piece of "performance art" was a woman sitting buck naked on top of a house).

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Performance? Art?

        How do you know she wasnt just moonlighting as an artist...?

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          moonlighting as an artist...?

          Did she have a spotlight aimed at her posterior?

    5. katrinab Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Performance? Art?

      How many journeys are navigated using satnav?

      Most of the time, I'm driving routes that i do frequently, and I navigate from memory. I only get out the satnav when I'm doing a route I've never done before.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Performance? Art?

        Depends where you are and what you are doing. I know many people who use a satnav on a daily commute as much for delay notifications as anything else. In my case, I'm doing fairly long trips with occasional detours around problems, not always to places I'm families with, but I still set the destination for trips I do regularly so I have an ETA if the boss calls and can re-route around traffic "incidents" in areas where I only know the major roads.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Performance? Art?

        I'm the same, although I try to avoid using it even for routes I haven't gone before. Instead, I'll plan out the route before I leave. I consider online navigation to be a "last resort" sort of option.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Performance? Art?

        Navigaitng a city where you don't know the finer layout of the road maze, while also needing to keep an eye (or three) out for other traffic of all shapes and sizes? Having a satnav at least tell you when to turn left or right, or, when you missed that or had to detour because of just any applicable reasons, recalculates and offers a new instruction? Very worthwhile.

        (Older Garmin plus OpenStreetMaps plus Afrikaans voice)

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Performance? Art?

          Having a satnav at least tell you when to turn left or right, or, when you missed that or had to detour because of just any applicable reasons, recalculates and offers a new instruction? Very worthwhile.

          Much the same here. I was given one to trial for someone who was importing some cheap ones, and soon found it useful when heading to places I didn't know. Didn't have to stop to look up a map, didn't have to keep as much of an eye out for a street name when also trying to negotiate other traffic and hazards, and could set it so the screen wasn't visible while driving and not have the initial novelty distraction of seeing it.

          Leaves me better able to concentrate on what's around me. I'm not one of those drivers who suddenly slow down at every other turnoff while trying to read the name and think if I was supposed to turn at Thames Valley Road or turn after Thames Valley Road (which is why, pre sat-nav, I used to ask people to never give me names of roads I wasn't supposed to drive on, only names of roads I was turning on/off).

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Performance? Art?

          > (Older Garmin plus OpenStreetMaps plus Afrikaans voice)

          I really do want to get a nav system that doesn't need to talk to servers anywhere. Is that working well for you?

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Performance? Art?

            Works great for me.

            If I'm using the tablet (which is rare but not unheard of) I use 'Navigate" and don't have any data options for it. "Navigate" will readily let me know when there's map updates, and on exit if connected does display an add screen (only when exiting and only when connected to the net/connected without PiHoile).

            And I have a stand-alone unit that I have to manually hunt for maps for, and it only gets updated 2 or 3 times a year. But road changes are few, they are generally well-notified in advance (this unit shows up-and-coming roads that are still months or years away from completion), and it has a really neat (to me) feature where if you drive on a new road it from then on realises the road is open and starts to plan to use it. I've not known others to do this, and even saw many ones on Droid which you had to pay for that could be years out of date (eg Kapiti Expressway still NOT SHOWN AT ALL some 18 months after it opened). My unit is a cheapy based on the IGO 8 software. Not the greatest of units, based on WinCE, but works and keeps my secrets.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Performance? Art?

              Thank you! I'm going to look into doing something similar.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: Performance? Art?

            Good enough. It should have traffic congestion data coming in via RDS, although I suspect that's gotten disabled with some firmware upgrade. It used to work, also with OSM, but I haven't seen it show up for a while.

            Just feed it a fresh set every three months or so and you're set. We've got the 1490, which takes microSD where you just plop the map on, but models that present as mass storage when you hook them up to USB should work OK too. OSM has a section on their website where you can build maps for the area you need, with output in Garmin format.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Performance? Art?

              Excellent. You've pointed me in a possibly great direction, I appreciate it! I don't care about real-time traffic information, just directions. That should make it easier.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Performance? Art?

              "We've got the 1490,"

              Same here, and the RDS radio traffic receiver stiil works fine. I have two issues with it now. One is the poor connection to the mount, "fixed" by putting a torn off bit of paper into the top of the mount to increase the contact pressure, and the other is the GPS date problem where it no longer knows the time of year anymore causing it to no longer switch to night mode automatically at sunset. That's too bad since the voice control responds to the spoken command "brightness" followed a number (percentage) eg "20" to dim it down enough for night use. I do prefer the night mode colours though, so manually switch it when I get the opportunity.

      4. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Performance? Art?

        Just the same here. Not least because the built DVD in the Honda is over 15 years old and was missing a lot of roads in this part of the World already then.

        My daftphone has to smal a screen to be useful without my son holding it and tell me what to do...

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: Performance? Art?

          My daftphone has to smal a screen to be useful without my son holding it and tell me what to do...

          I just have the unit connected to the stereo, and rely on voice instructions. It can be nice to be able to see some stuff on the screen (many still aren't great where you have say 2 or 3 roundabouts in close proximity, not giving you lane advice or "roundabout take 1st exit then roundabout take 3rd exit" like "Navigator" does on 'droid).

          You can always go Tesla style and stick a honking great tablet screen in the middle of your dash, wrecking night vision. Bonus points if you move all your vent etc "tactile controls" to it so instead of being able to feel for things without looking away from the road, you now have to take your eyes off the road, re-focus on a bright screen, hunt for the item, make the change, eyes back to the road and re-gain night-vision plus re-focus on the road (some people have a slower focus). Do Tesla screens do a 'night-vision" mode? If not, please do!

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Re: Performance? Art?

            When I were a lad, my father had an route map to navigate us from Devon to Aunt& Uncles place in Suffolk (Early 1970's).

            My job to read the thing, in best Dambusters Navigator style (Hadn't seen the film at that point) & navigate, while mum & sis sat in the back.

            It was still used although as a rough guide, familiarity, roads changed & new ones appeared ie M5/M4 sprung into existence etc up until the early 80's.

            To be fair there were probably more direct & easier routes than the RAC provided to him, mainly A30, A303 South & then North Circular & A11, but father was a nervous driver when out of his comfort zone & preferred to let me drive (While on L plates & on more than one occasion fell asleep while I was doing so) on trips to the same area for weddings.

            Last significant trip he was quite proud of the way I took a truck around London without being fazed, old hat to me as I had taken a 7.5 ton job through the centre of London while exhibiting at the PCW show at Earls Court over a 6 day period some years earlier.

      5. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Performance? Art?

        OTOH, I always use SatNav for every single journey... It has saved me many hours of delays.

    6. Psmo Bronze badge
      WTF?

      Re: Performance? Art?

      Sharing my general rule:

      If a fair percentage of the population is likely to say "OK, but why?" it's probably art or humour.

      Or that deceptively large overlap of the two.

      1. Manolo
        Joke

        Re: Performance? Art?

        Like the floor made of peanut butter:

        https://www.boijmans.nl/en/exhibitions/the-peanut-butter-platform-by-wim-t-schippers

    7. Bonzo_red

      Re: Performance? Art?

      Now if he were to get together with a few mates and manage to map out a traffic jam in the shape of Homer Simpson, that would be art.

  10. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Google Bombing updated

    Very appropriate name for it too, as you would no doubt wish to avoid a bomb.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Coat

      Re: Google Bombing updated

      Easy. Just stick 99 phones next to the bomb and Google will avoid it for you.

  11. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Pint

    Well done that man!

    I'd buy you one of these if we ever met.

    Getting one over on Google can only be good in my eyes.

    What we need is for thousands more people to do this in a coordinated event. That would give a big two fingers to Google. Just stop slurping and go back to 'Do No Evil' and we might... might just start to trust you again.

    1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Well done that man!

      What we need is for thousands more people to do this in a coordinated event

      Some time later, we find out google has moved into selling second hand Mobiles,

      SUCKERS!!!!!

  12. JohnFen Silver badge
    Pint

    This is brilliant

    Buy that man a beer.

  13. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Excellent

    Good work there.

  14. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge
  15. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Pi Streamer

    Singers and songwriters get little recompense from music streaming services. I'm thinking of setting up an RPi to constantly stream my favourite poor artists just to get them extra micro-payments. I've more bandwidth than time.

  16. Jeffrey Nonken

    99 Lost Cellphones... maybe somebody can write a war protest song or something.

  17. jason_derp

    Weird

    "What is the relationship between the art of enabling and techniques of supervision, control and regulation in Google's maps?"

    I love how the lines between "artist", "prankster", and "[nsfw version of] goofoff" are so easily blended in the modern era by tech. I'm in no way knocking art or throwing shade on this person, but it makes me wonder what it must have been like in the past. Like, when artists hid dirty stuff in paintings back in the day, did they get talked about as much (proportionally speaking) as this guy is? Like, he has an article on a well-known website because he did what some people would just consider a lark.

    Curious if anybody can think of any historical people off the top of their head who provoked such a weird venn diagram of interpretations of them as a person due to their artwork (and their artwork relied heavily on contemporary technology of their time). My only other though is Giger getting stopped at an airport for all of his "pornagraphic" paintings that he was transporting. Would that have happened with him if air compressors and the air brush weren't invented?

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Weird

      Good thinking jason_derp. This has actually been a growing phenomenon for a very long time. Art is art because a particular artist created it. An almost identical piece by an unrecognised person isn't art. That's the entire basis for the art auction market - "a genuine Rembrandt!". It's just got easier to get on the bandwagon as "art" has become simpler to create without needing a high level of technical skill. It's interesting though that what used to be called criminal damage - painting over someone else's walls without permission - is also now art, and in some cases extremely "valuable" art. We have a culture that advocates protest and disruption, and a lot of modern art merely reflects that tendency.

  18. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Hmmm

    When the old Forth Road Bridge went Titsup while the new one was still some columns rising ouf of the sea a friend had to take her hound from Edinburgh to a specialist Vet in SE Fife (outside Anstruther for the record). I drove under directions from the friend using Google Maps driving instructions. It took us entirely different routes around the M90 north of the bridge going and coming but was flawless in terms of keeping us away from lots of traffic.

    Considering it was a temporary situation in a small country it was still pretty impressive. They can be slow to correct mistakes, there was one locally which meant couriers could not find addresses for eg. but for traffic instructions it seems very good.

    My geo sense is pretty good and I can still remember the routes taken and knew where we were and the likely routes. I've only used it once. I was trying to exit said friend's place on my own on a dark and wet night and took a wrong turning trying to work my way onto the Queensferry road. When I gave up, pulled over and consulted it I found I was somehow on the other side of the Western end of Princes St instead and heading south. I should have used it from the start but I thought I knew the way, in the daylight.

  19. Kiwi Silver badge
    Pint

    At last! A use for...

    Memes! And copy-cats.. And trends.. And....

    Normally I would hate these things and tend not to partake of them willingly.. But I might just have to look at getting a cartful of phones here.

    Or.. Set up a few "walking tours" around the area. Get lots of mates out for a wander (or complete strangers interested in messing with Google for no real gain )

    --> A tanker-load of your favourite, Mr Weckert, and may you have many many more!

  20. Robert Grant Silver badge

    Do these maps function as dispositive nets that determine the behaviour, opinions and images of living beings, exercising power and controlling knowledge?

    Don't forget all those libraries, only letting you think the thoughts contained within the books they choose to buy and let you borrow! Oh wait, without them, life is worse, not better.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge

      Do these maps function as dispositive nets that determine the behaviour, opinions and images of living beings, exercising power and controlling knowledge?

      Don't forget all those libraries, only letting you think the thoughts contained within the books they choose to buy and let you borrow! Oh wait, without them, life is worse, not better.

      Books? libraries? How quaint and out-dated! And how many trees and tree-based ecosystems were murdered for your books? :)

      Yep, I too like to sit down from time to time with something that doesn't require any electricity to 'turn the page".

      But sadly, so many people today rely on their phones for their news, entertainment and so on. And crafty buggers have already realised they can manipulate you by altering the suggested/displayed news, videos, adverts and so on.

      Perhaps not so much the maps themselves, but the underlying systems (much owned by google - youtube and search results etc) can be used to manipulate people by the results they're given. Lets say you wondered about the pros and cons of a certain vaccine (actual reports of harm/reactions vs the risks from the illness it maybe prevents). A straight search engine would give you results that are directly related to what you want, perhaps weighted by page popularity. A manipulated one might give you lots of news stories about people without the vaccine suffering horribly, pages from the nuttier end of the 'anti-vax' people where a few seconds reading can make you colour the whole group as quite bad, and only present glowing reports about the vaccine in question.

      If you have the means to control the news people see, you have the means to control a lot of their views on life. That's why the people trapped into watching Faux News etc get so weird as time moves on, and why wall-wall horror stories/murderporn/world-as-we-knew-it-just-ended seem to keep people so fearful and more and more isolated from their neighbours.

      (FTR, I'm just old enough to have missed polio so seen what it could do and what the vaccine thankfully prevented, but also have known people who had a bad reaction to some vaccines (normally quite rare but not unknown), and I also have questions about vaccinating against every minor niggle under the sun instead of letting the immune system build up naturally - so I'm firmly in the "read up about them carefully over several days and make an informed decision, try to avoid emotive people in either camp!" crowd)

      1. jtaylor

        "Lets say you wondered about the pros and cons of a certain vaccine (actual reports of harm/reactions vs the risks from the illness it maybe prevents). A straight search engine would give you results that are directly related to what you want, perhaps weighted by page popularity."

        The current situation is not so different from your "straight search engine," but the result is slightly dystopian. Search engines, and online profiling, try to give you more of what they predict you want. If you're searching for "vaccination risks" then you'll tend to see results that were preferred by people who have fears about vaccination. Those results might skew more towards the infowars end of things rather than NIH or WHO or NEJM sources.

        Search engines take our confirmation bias as input and attempt to satisfy it.

  21. JimC

    What I don't understand is

    What's the difference between our hero at walking pace with his 99 smartphones, and 99 pedestrians with their smartphones walking along the street. Presumably Google must have a means of distinguishing pedestrians from wheeled traffic.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: What I don't understand is

      Presumably Google must have a means of distinguishing pedestrians from wheeled traffic.

      The units I've used have varying profiles that can make changes to how they plan a trip, eg a truck/bus might try to avoid some of the narrower/twistier/hillier streets, pedristian or cyclist may get directed through narrow walkways or cycleways, while cars and motorbikes get normal roads.

      I found some shortcuts through my neighbourhood through this, eg a couple of walkways that when you're there look like a driveway to a back section (which they are) but are also legal footpaths - you only discover that if you first come through from the other side or see them on a map/gps. I can walk to the local shops quicker than I can drive there.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: What I don't understand is

      I imagine the difference is the map apps on the 99 smartphones are in drive mode whereas the the map app for pedestrians is either not running (if such a thing exists with Google apps) or in overhead view mode.

  22. Scott Marshall
    Coat

    99 jamming phones ...

    ... auf ihrem weg zum Horror-zon.

    I also proclaim that ...

    I would pull 500 phones, and I would pull 500 more

    Just to be the man who would pull 1000 phones

    to jam the traffic at your door.

    Okay, okay! I'm leaving - just let me get my coat.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: 99 jamming phones ...

      Okay, okay! I'm leaving - just let me get my coat.

      Not without one of these you're not! :)

  23. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    99 phones

    All reporting a location within a few feet of each other? Maybe a bus. Or the biggest traffic accident Berlin has seen in some time.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      What's the error?

      How accurate are the position reports? If they're using wifi it might be pretty granular. Even GPS can end up being rather inaccurate. So the phones in the cart could appear spread out to Google. And it might not be unusual for a street full of cars to have several reporting they're in the same spot.

      So maybe next time we'll need two or three separate carts to fool Google.

      BTW did anybody else notice the map showing he was next to the office of "Google Berlin"? That's real class.

  24. David Pearce

    The opposite problem

    I am frequently getting stuck in gridlock jams, that don't show on the map because motorcycle food delivery riders are racing through the jam, each with a smartphone and fooling the algorithm.

  25. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Iowa Caucuses Cauc-Up App

    The Iowa Dem caucus results were due in an hour ago. Apparently they are voting by a smartphone app! And surprise, surprise...

    https://xkcd.com/2030/

    Quote of the night: "We've been recommended to call in to the hotline and the hotline has been...unresponsive" - Shawn Sebastian, Story County Precinct Secretary.

    'US Democracy. Have you tried turning it off and on again?'

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Iowa Caucuses Cauc-Up App

      Wolf Blitzer: Shawn Sebastian is joining us just now from Story County, he's a precinct secretary out there, what can you tell us about this delay in getting any results, Sean?

      Shawn Sebastian: Well, Wolf, I have been on hold for over an hour with the Iowa Democratic Party. They tried to I think promote an app to report the results. The app by all accounts just doesn't work so we've been recommended to call into the hotline and the hotline has not been responsive.

      Wolf Blitzer: Sean, have you got any explanation at all as to what's been going on?

      Shawn Sebastian: No, I have not, no. I'm just waiting on hold and doing my best to report the results from my precinct.

      Wolf Blitzer: What are you hearing? I know you're listening to a conversation from the Iowa Democratic party.

      Shawn Sebastian: Umm...

      Hotline: Can I help you?

      Shawn Sebastian: This is a coincidence Wolf, I just got off hold just now,

      Hotline: Hello?

      Shawn Sebastian: So I've got to get off the phone to report the results

      Wolf Blitzer: Go ahead and report your results, can...

      Hotline: Hello?

      Wolf Blitzer: ...we listen in as you report them, Sean?

      Hotline: [Click]

      Shawn Sebastian: Yep

      Wolf Blitzer: Let's listen in

      Shawn Sebastian: Alright. Okay. Hi, hello? They hung up on me. Shhiii...they hung up on me. Okay, I've got to get back in line on hold. They just hung up.

    2. silks

      Re: Iowa Caucuses Cauc-Up App

      "US democracy" - never mind have they turned it off and on again, have they actually turned it on yet?

  26. Timmy B Silver badge

    Amusing.... On the surface....

    This could cause emergency services to be minutes late as they re-route around non-existent traffic. I'm a wilderness medic and it's unlikely to affect me (where I would need help it'll be helicopters) but my first thought was that this could have killed people.

    1. sum_of_squares Bronze badge
      Holmes

      Re: Amusing.... On the surface....

      You know, emergency services have those funky blinkenlights so they can simply drive through a traffic jam. Also it's highly unlikely they rely on google maps for an emergency.

      I would expect a real medic to know this.. you aren't a you a google employee by any chance, are you?

      :-)

      1. Timmy B Silver badge

        Re: Amusing.... On the surface....

        Not sure where they get routing data from but the last time an ambulance came here they were delayed 15 minutes because they re-routed round traffic. But after 2 and a half hours waiting the extra didn't matter that much. But they clearly do try to preempt traffic issues.

        "you aren't a you a google employee"..... Are you Mario... or Dracula? :-)

        1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Amusing.... On the surface....

          When my wife was suddenly taken ill, I called an ambulance. They loaded her up and disappeared down the road with Blues and Twos blaring. I saw to the dog, collected some essential supplies for my wife, and secured the house. I then drove to the hospital. I asked at Reception which ward my wife was in, but they couldn't find any record of her arrival. They tried ringing round other departments of the hospital, to no avail, my wife was not traceable. Just then an ambulance arrived and my wife was wheeled out into the Reception area. I asked why they had taken so long to get from Rugby to Walsgrave, to be told that they were instructed to use the major roads and not back streets. They had gone east from Rugby to the M1, north to the M6, west to M6 Junction 2, south on the A46, before turning off onto local roads to reach the hospital. It had taken them over 50 minutes to reach the hospital, I had taken the A428 directly from Rugby to Binley and then local roads to the hospital, 22 minutes in all, and I was obeying the speed limits, unlike them doing 75 - 80 MPH on the motorways.

          1. Timmy B Silver badge

            Re: Amusing.... On the surface....

            @ICPurvis

            It's sadly all to common. A triumph of caution over common sense. Hope everything is OK, now.

            I'm also on the verge of becoming a first responder so I'm sure I'll see all the silliness for myself. In fact it's the silliness that's stopped me so far.

        2. sum_of_squares Bronze badge
          Pint

          Re: Amusing.... On the surface....

          >Are you Mario... or Dracula? :-)

          Touché.. It's-a-me!

  27. sum_of_squares Bronze badge
    Devil

    Golden!

    But I've read on his website, that GMaps assumes the traffic jam is over, once a single car passed him by. Duh!

    So while his performance was great to make us think about the data we actually share every day and what contemporary "services" are doing already, it's probably not useful to create a major traffic chaos.

    Or is it..?

    *evil grin*

    1. David Pearce

      That would explain why motorcycle food delivery riders make real traffic jams vanish

  28. MrKrotos

    I got 99 problems but the traffic aint one :P

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could i have someone drive my commute and red flag it so only I would know it was really OK.

    I know not everyone uses GM but a significant proportion might and the commute would be better (once!)

    This would need a idiot to drive my commute before me though , and 99+ smartphones and since i'm not rich a loan for all the sim cards phones etc.

    Its funny but serious, kind of, maybe.

  30. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    So much for "AI" eh ?

    that's all really.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My sat nav got me into an infinite loop

    You'll be pleased to hear I'm not still there. I spotted the issue and exited the loop after the first iteration. It went like this Heading north, Satnav said "turn left", after a few hundred yards again "turn left" (so now heading south) then again "turn left" and the forth time - oh look I'm back on the road I started on, heading North and Satnav says there's a left turn ahead, looks familiar. I'll disobey!

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: My sat nav got me into an infinite loop

      She does get very upset if you disobey her.

  32. JohnG

    Simulation

    One could record the GPS track, WiFI SSIDs and MAC addresses, when moving along a certain route. Then play the data back in multiple VMs, with the GPS and WiFi interfaces spoofed. You could run the simulated route just before heading home, to help reduce traffic on your favourite route.

  33. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

    40 years ago ...

    Reminds me of a student prank by some friends ...

    Main car park detects metal to count incoming and outgoing vehicles. Issues ticket to entering driver, reads ticket and takes payment on exit.

    Students decide to play. Go there middle-of-night when it's empty. One swings a metal dustbin lid backwards and forwards across the detector at the entrance, another collects the tickets as they're issued. In the morning, car park is empty but thinks it's full and won't let any more cars in.

  34. silks

    Trains

    Could be replicated if train users did the same, especially in the UK where trains are often slow or broken down - more than 99 phones on board!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A1(M)

    Can I get him to walk near the A1 from junction 69 to around junction 78 to make my daily commute a bit better? Its permanently traffic jammed anyway but it might reduce the traffic down..

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When its too quiet...

    I recall driving in northern ireland on some small country lanes, when google maps told me there was a traffic jam ahead... no traffic, but there was a convenience store, so I concluded someone sat in the car while their other half popped in for some fags...

  37. David Pearce

    The effect of these applications has been to make all legal routes equally jammed. My journey always gives the fasted route as the wrong way down a section of one way street because that is what the motorcyclists do and how Google "learns" restricted junctions. They don't bother to actually check road signs from the road

  38. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    Quite a lot of new cars are sending location information and driving parameters back to base. My Toyota Corolla does and there's an app that comments on your driving.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Coat

      > there's an app that comments on your driving

      Yeah, who can afford passengers nowadays...

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Cheaper than a wife.

    2. whitepines Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Quite a lot of new cars are sending location information and driving parameters back to base.

      And that's why I won't buy a new car. Wonder if anyone will ever sell a basic model that just, you know, lets you *drive* it without any nanny state crap or built in multi function food station?

  39. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    I have strong feelings about this. I can't work out if I want to buy the man a beer or if I want to punch him in the face.

    It's definitely one of the two.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Combine the two and glass him? Tends to be very harsh on the hand of the glasser as well.

  40. Grunchy
    Boffin

    So what’s the deal

    Are you guys gonna extradite Assange, or what.

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