Artist Simon Weckert walked around Berlin with 99 phones in a wagon
The way Google Maps estimates traffic is by assessing the density of phones that enable the app to access their location, confirmed a Google spokesperson. Therefore, to the app’s technology, the only explanation for Weckert’s 99 phones in a condensed space was a dense traffic jam. The spokesperson also said, somewhat creepily, that Weckert’s experiment helps Google figure out where its geolocation needs to improve. It can distinguish between the motions of a car and a motorcycle, apparently, but recognizing movement in a wagon is still beyond it.
If you’re wondering why a bus full of people with smartphones doesn’t automatically show up as a traffic jam, a bus is very easy to recognize via geolocation, as such a cluster of users follows a predictable path and stops in predictable places. Maybe Weckert’s next experiment should be trying to fool Google Maps into thinking he’s a bus.
A video of the experiment shows how quiet the streets actually were during the “traffic jam”