Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Google Maps Was Leading People on ‘Potentially Fatal’ Scottish Trail

Google is once again in hot water, although not for antitrust concerns, as the company’s mapping software was leading people on a dangerous path.

Google Maps is the leading maps service on mobile devices. As a result, many rely on it, not just for driving or navigating cities, but also for walking, hiking and recreation. Unfortunately, the software was leading hikers on a “potentially fatal” trail in the Scottish Highlands, according to Mountaineering Scotland.

The software was directing some users to a car park closest to the summit of Ben Nevis, as the crow flies. Unfortunately, that route is “highly dangerous, even for experienced climbers.”

As a result, conservation officers were warning people not to trust the directions.

“The problem is that Google Maps directs some visitors to the Upper Falls carpark, presumably because it is the closest carpark to the summit,” said John Muir Trust’s Nevis Conservation Officer Nathan Berrie. “But this is NOT the correct route and we often come across groups of inexperienced walkers heading towards Steall Falls or up the south slopes of Ben Nevis believing it is the route to the summit.”

According to Mountaineering Scotland, Google has addressed the issue, and both Mountaineering Scotland and John Muir Trust have met with Google to highlight similar issues.

Below is the statement from Mountaineering Scotland:

In response to the news article below, we are delighted to hear that Google Maps have updated the driving directions for Ben Nevis to direct people to the visitor centre car park in Glen Nevis, where visitors can find further information and directions to the summit.

Mountaineering Scotland and John Muir Trust have since met with representatives from Google Maps to highlight similar issues in other areas and are awaiting feedback from Google on potential solutions to provide users with more accurate and relevant information when they venture away from the roadside and into wild and mountainous places. 

The above situation illustrates why many hikers, backpackers and outdoorsmen are better off buying a dedicated app, one with a focus on backwoods trails.

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