Australian police: flawed Google Maps putting people’s lives at risk, too

Look, digital maps are imperfect – some more than the others. Australian police earlier in the week issued a public safety warning over a major flaw in Apple Maps which incorrectly put the town of Mildura in the middle of Australia’s Murray Sunset National Park.

It wasn’t Apple’s fault entirely as the company was working on data from The Australian Gazetteer, a company run by the Geosciences Australia agency which supplies Gazetteer with mapping data sourced from the state of Victoria itself.

And now, we learn that the police in Colac, west of Melbourne, warn of safety concerns from Google Maps. Ouch!

Yahoo News reports:

Police in Mildura have had to conduct six rescues in recent weeks, after through the Murray Sunset National Park.

Now police in Colac, west of Melbourne, say faults with Google maps are putting people’s lives at risk along the Great Ocean Road and in the southern Otways.

Google is apparently directing vehicles and tourists down Wild Dog Road.

The problem is, that’s a one-way track and not built for heavy traffic.

Sergeant Nick Buenen said:

My issue is it’s a significant safety issue for tourists [and] locals, who are getting the wrong information from their GPSs. My concern is that one day we’re going to be at the coroners court [being asked] well what did you do about it.

Google Maps has not responded and a company that manages the road has denied responsibility.

“My concern is that one day we’re going to be at the coroners court [being asked] well what did you do about it”, he points out.

After this, Samsung probably needs a new display ad in Sydney, no?

Joking aside, it’s worth mentioning that another Australian jurisdiction has issued a warning against using Apple Maps for placing the town of Mount Isa miles away of its actual location.

Of course, neither Google’s nor Apple’s product is perfect.

The search firm admittedly has the upper hand because it’s been poured significant resources into improving Maps for seven years now. Apple’s product has cooler three-dimensional features and crisper satellite imagery at certain places, but it lacks Street View and Google’s rate of accuracy.

Apple has just gotten started with its Maps product, but quickly did it become a black eye for the company, hurting its reputation and brand.

Google’s and Apple’s mapping woes aside, I think it’s frightening that people entrust smartphone apps with their lives.

Lawmakers, regulators and buyer’s advocates alike may want to take a long and hard look at the state of personal navigation because I don’t think enough people are aware of the risks.

In fact, an average person has no clue where data in their favorite mapping app is coming from and how accurate it is. A public awareness movement akin to texting while driving campaigns is much needed.

The sooner, the better.

Hopefully, we can avoid major accidents before the subject of GPS data accuracy becomes a late night topic.

As you know, heads rolled over so-called Mapgate immediately following Apple’s SVP of Internet Software & Services taking control of both Maps and Siri services in a recent management shakeup.

The company is reportedly seeking outside help from TomTom, a major mapping data provider, and could even be considering a takeover bid as it seeks to improve the flawed product.

On a somewhat related note, a research report from Telsyte claims Android smartphones slightly edged out the iPhone in Australia.

Life is fragile, indeed…