In a most recent stunt that has been all over the internet, Simon Weckert, a Berlin artist, has been able to "hack" Google Maps. He pulled a red wagon filled with exactly 99 iPhones running Google Maps and dragging them around the city to trick Google Maps into recording the data as a traffic jam even though it was evident that there was no traffic.
This is a pretty clever stunt, but what is more interesting is the realization of how Google Maps works.
How Google Maps interpreted the data
Could the app be considered accurate after this most recent stunt? Well, because of Weckert's very own traffic jam, Google Maps' reading patterns were figured out by users. Given the data that Google collects by isolating a certain place and computing how many working phones are in a certain area that is moving at a certain speed, Google Maps then indicates the users of traffic because of the slow movement of several devices.
How Google corrected this wrong interpretation of traffic
Comments from Weckert indicated that a single-car moving at normal speed was able to restore the status of Google Maps from traffic to normal, which is a bit odd because the majority of phones were moving at Weckert's speed. This may be a clever interpretation on Google's part because it indicates that the phones could have been voluntarily moving slower compared to the one phone moving at normal speed. This was the definite cause of the experiment, and we have seen the results to be quite interesting.
The treatment of Vehicles
It is amazing how Google Maps can somehow differentiate the difference between a car, a motorcycle, and even other vehicles (well, this is true in some countries but not necessarily all countries) and interpret the traffic data based on the type of vehicles that are used. As motorcycles are able to ease their way through traffic, Google is able to identify the difference and does not change the status from traffic to normal once again.
Google Maps incidents report
There are available reports on Google Maps that help indicate if certain constructions, accidents, and even traffic incidents occur ahead. This is based on the patterns that Google Maps read based off of the Google Maps users around. Cross-checking with different data to understand whether or not there is an obstruction, Google Maps then hands out the reports to their users, whether they be Android or iOS.
How to contribute to these reports
There are three simple steps that could help Google Maps users be more aware of certain incidents in your area.
The first step is to go to Google Maps' navigation mode and look for the "+" icon, which is located in the lower right-side menu. Once you have tapped the icon, follow the instructions listed to file the report for others to use. Once you have filed in, there is a countdown just in case you wish to change your mind.