The next time you’re using GPS and find yourself gridlocked behind rows of traffic, you might want to take a second look. A German artist has found a way to hack artificial traffic jams into Google Map’s high tech software with this very low tech trick. Using a red wagon packed with 99 smartphones, Simon Weckert walked the streets of Berlin creating virtual traffic jams throughout the city. If you’re familiar with Google Maps you might notice the red lines that appear in high traffic roads. Using this information, Weckert pulled his wagon into empty streets tricking the software into reading the phones as drivers and diverting cars from that area. At one point, Weckert even pulled his wagon in front of Google’s office in Berlin.
Though you might be wondering why anybody on earth would want to create more traffic jams, the purpose of Weckert’s stunt was to show how dependent our everyday lives have become on apps.
“All of these apps function via interfaces with Google Maps and create new forms of digital capitalism and commodification. Without these maps, car sharing systems, new taxi apps, bike rental systems and online transport agency services such as ‘Uber’ would be unthinkable,” Weckert wrote in a statement.
Interestingly, Weckert was able to deduce that the program did not pick up traffic created by the smartphones unless the phones were constantly moving and that cars passing the wagon also negated the desired traffic designation. Who knew such a simple hack could stump such a robust system?
Though in Google’s defense, the giant tech company did take the clever stunt in stride.
“Whether via car or cart or camel, we love seeing creative uses of Google Maps as it helps us make maps work better over time,” a spokesperson for the company said.
Google also quipped that though its technology can tell the difference between an automobile or a motorcycle, it hasn’t developed parameters for little red wagons yet.