Google Maps goes off-road


A West Coast farmer has found Google Maps has listed one of his farm tracks as a road:

Andrew Stewart is a sharemilker at Taramakau, inland from Kumara, on the West Coast.

He said the so-called road is in fact a farm race used for herding stock or driving tractors.

Upon learning of this, he became concerned at a potential risk to security, and the safety of livestock, as well as possible health and safety issues for people who might see the road on Google Maps and try to drive along it.

“One of the neighbour’s wives was looking on Google Maps, and and some of their farm races were marked as roadways,” he said.

“So I looked at my own farm to see if the tracks were listed as roads, and they were.”

Stewart said no one had so far tried to get onto his farm race, but there were still worries for him about the security of his farm.

“An average Joe Bloggs looking for ways to get to rivers to go fishing, or to go tiki-touring around, could pull out Google Maps and be led astray,” he said.

“They could be led into places where they did not have permission to go, onto workplaces with risks to health and safety, to security of livestock and to biosecurity.” . . 

We’ve got the same problem.

If you ask for directions to our home on Google Maps it gets you onto our road, but about 100 metres from our gate it turns off onto a side road and then onto a farm track, past our dairy shed and a dam, and into the yard by the tractor shed.

This morning a truck driver used Google Maps to get to one of our dairy sheds and it took him off-road, onto a farm track, almost twice the distance he’d have had to go had it kept him on the road.

In response to this problem, RNZ telephoned Google New Zealand and the track was almost immediately removed from the map of roads.

But Carrie Jones, who’s communications manager for Google New Zealand, said Google users could fix the problem themselves.

“We use a variety of sources to get accurate and up to date information on the maps, and we use a combination of manual and automated techniques to check for accuracy,” she said.

“But the world changes at such a rapid pace that sometimes errors do happen.”

But she said users themselves could help to fix this problem.

“Of course we empower our community to help us by submitting corrections via the problem tool on Google Maps.”

I did that last Monday, got an almost instant response by email saying my suggestion was being reviewed and they’d let me know when changes were published.

But no changes have been made and directions still say to turn off our road, take the side road and farm track.

Taking the scenic route


Giving and following directions has always been an inexact science, and it’s particularly difficult in the country.

One shelter belt looks very much like another to most people and the paddock on the corner you remember so well when it sported sunflowers in bloom on your last trip looks quite different planted in wheat on your next.

Those problems ought to have been solved by technological advances, but Laughy Kate’s cousin discovered that it doesn’t pay to take Google Maps as gospel.

She wanted to find the best route to cycle to her parents-inlaws’ house but:

Google Maps managed to turn her 40 kilometre trip into a route that covered 52, 795 kilometres, a few oceans, three different countries and would have had her arriving at her parent’s in-laws sometime around the middle of August!


The story made the Daily Telegraph  which contacted Google and was told the engineers might have been having a laugh when they put the service together.

Hat Tip: Quote Unquote

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