Tahoe travelers appeared to have been misguided by Google Maps

3 mins read

When Google Maps is needed the most, travelers in the Lake Tahoe under a record-breaking snowstorm found themselves to have been misguided by the service to even perilous paths, SFGATE reported.

Among those who complained was UC Merced forest sciences professor Crystal Kolden who took to social media her criticisms over the service’s misguidance to travelers, leading them away from shut highways to risky shortcuts.

“This is an abject failure,” the professor said in a tweet Monday night. “You are sending people up a poorly maintained forest road to their death in a severe blizzard.”

She shared a screenshot showing instructions through an equally narrow Marysville Road, a path with two lanes going through the Tahoe National Forest.

Social media posts also accuse that Google Maps, specifically its mobile application, guided users to shut highways, lakeside paths, and mountain passes to travel around.

The directions are opposite to the message of Caltrans on preventing workarounds. According to Caltrans District 3 spokesperson Steve Nelson, who spoke with SFGATE Monday, they were observing travelers attempting to adjoin highway closures with side streets. Nelson said: “They’ll take side roads and try and sneak past the closures, and that never ends well.”

Google engineer Sören Meyer-Eppler addressed complaints Kolden published on social media. He said that in the past, he had worked on “this problem” and cleared the challenges of leading users through mountain paths.

“[People are suggesting] if you can’t get driving directions and road closures right 100% of the time, you shouldn’t offer any. Surely that would be a worse trade-off than the status quo?” Meyer-Eppler wrote. “Consider that we don’t know a priori which mistake is potentially dangerous.”

Google is presently taking preemptive steps to make sure that travelers are safe when they go around the Lake Tahoe area, the company’s spokesperson told SFGATE.

“In light of the unpredictable conditions from the current snowstorm, our team is working as quickly as possible to update routes in the Lake Tahoe area using details from local authorities,” a Google spokesperson said. “We currently show a winter storm warning to alert drivers in the area, and encourage everyone to stay alert and attentive.”