The purpose of Apple’s mapping and navigation app, released in iOS 6, was to replace Google Maps on the iPhone. But Apple Maps was such a disaster that, just weeks after its release, CEO Tim Cook apologized for the app’s flaws and advised iOS users to use Google Maps, Waze, and other navigation applications until the problems were resolved.
One particular error put Apple Maps users in grave danger, prompting Victoria Police Inspector Simon Clemmence to label the software “life-threatening.”
The app’s directions for at least six people driving their cars to Mildura turned out to take them through the Outback, with temperatures as high as 115 degrees. Poisonous snakes abound in the area, and cell reception is poor.
The issue was that Apple Maps placed Mildura located 43 miles distant from where it actually was. Drivers who used the app to go to Mildura ended up traveling for more than 24 hours without food, drink, or cell service, according to Australian cops.
One person had to walk for nearly 24 hours before he was able to connect his phone to the internet. Since then, Apple Maps has vastly improved, and now it is Google Maps’ turn to transmit possibly fatal directions.
The John Muir Trust and Mountaineering Scotland, two groups that monitor mountain climbing, hill walking, winter sports, and other similar activities in Scotland, issued a warning at the end of last week.
Climbers and hikers were using navigation applications to acquire directions to Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, according to the group.
Google Maps appears to be providing hikers with potentially fatal directions. Heather Morning, Mountaineering Scotland’s mountain safety adviser, believes as much. Morning states that “For those new to hill walking, it would seem perfectly logical to check out Google Maps for information on how to get to your chosen mountain…even the most experienced mountaineer would have difficulty following this route (from Google Maps).”
“The line goes through very steep, rocky, and pathless terrain where even in good visibility it would be challenging to find a safe line. Add in low cloud and rain and the suggested Google line is potentially fatal,” Morning adds.
Both organizations want to engage with Google about eliminating any potentially dangerous paths. Google, on the other hand, is said to have yet to reply to John Muir’s appeals.
A Google representative responded to the potentially life-threatening directions, saying, “We built Google Maps with safety and reliability in mind, and are working quickly to investigate the routing issue on Ben Nevis and surrounding areas.”
Mountaineering Scotland’s Morning says “Modern navigation technology brings some amazing advantages for hill walkers, but this example is clearly not one of them. Walkers and climbers with even a little experience will know to read information from a map, whether digital or paper, and if they are looking for downloadable routes know to use reputable sources and check several sources to ensure the information they are accessing is the right route for their level of experience and ability.”
She continues to say that “…especially on Ben Nevis, many people are not aware of where to get reliable information and may quite naturally assume that Google Maps, which got them from their home to the foot of the mountain, can carry on and do the job right to the top. This is not the case.”