Everyone remembers making fun of Apple’s failed Maps application that was released in iOS 6. The app was famous for showing massive errors in maps, as well as having caused a few people’s crashes of varying severity, famously calling a canyon a drivable street. But yesterday evening, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Maps, Apple or Google, had little to do with a collision involving a local motorist and a Google Streetview-mapping car.
In Little Rock, last night around 6 p.m. local time, there was a head-knocking between a Mazda and a Streetview Subaru. The Subaru had taken the driver, Alexander Spurr, onto a street, going in the completely wrong direction, entirely against the flow of traffic on that one-way street. Upon realizing this error in the mapping, Spurr reportedly attempted a U-turn on the street, but ended up colliding with and T-boning a local, Dylan Case, driving on an adjacent street in the process.
After the cars settled, damaged and off-kilter, Spurr climbed atop the Subaru, and was apparently dealing with the Google Maps cameras on top of the car in some way. Case, however wasn’t immediately able to get out of the car, due to later-clarified injuries. The accident brings a few things to the mind, but first the repercussions.
Case, after getting checked at a local hospital, was said to have whiplash, as well as bruised ribs, and was wearing a neck brace after his diagnosis. Spurr’s condition is unknown, but he is likely fine, if not a little concerned about the equipment, based on the photo. Case will reportedly be off of work for three weeks, and will seek legal repercussions for Google.
But let’s look at the technology and actual problem here. First and foremost, Spurr trusted the car’s map (which can be imperfect and wrong at any moment) completely in going onto the one-way street. Next, Spurr made the U-turn, reportedly illegally, and, by the looks of the crash, didn’t check the surroundings before doing so. Then there’s fact that the car was not a driverless car, so the accident is just that, an accident spawned from careless and inattentive driving. The crash should tell us a few things too.
First, don’t implicitly trust any digital map; always rely primarily on your own vision and your physical reading(s)s of street signs and direction markers. Next, this is not a computer error, because spur was driving and made the mistake. Finally, and pathetically, the issue of who should be suing who for what. Case, who was wrongfully collided with, should not be suing Google, because they had no direct part in this other than providing the colliding car and driver, but Spurr himself instead, since it was human error, rather than a computer’s mismapping of a region. Be careful what data you trust in digital maps, and always be alert while driving seems to be the message here.