A gaggle of Googlers

BEWARE the naming of laneways if Google finds out about it: Suburban backalleys have been turned into thoroughfares after the tech giant’s map app decided they were now fair game for its routing algorithm.

Resident Sue Graham Taylor attended Perth council electors’ AGM on January 31 to report to councillors that “the laneways behind our homes in Hollywood have been ‘improved’ and given names.

“Google Maps now recognises them as thoroughfares for all types of traffic. So people leave home, type in where they’re going, it tells them to go down the nearest lane.

“Ferdinand Lane is now, for instance, a much-used shortcut between Monash Avenue and Park Road.”

She said “Speed limiting devices are ineffective and in many cases entrances and exits are blind – a danger for pedestrians. The lack of lighting is also a problem. 

“Does someone have to be killed before the City of Perth does something?”

In response the council is planning traffic surveys to figure out how big the problem is and what might help, but laneway lighting hasn’t been flagged.

The impact of Google maps and similar apps routing people down ill-suited lanes and quiet residential roads has been an issue across the globe. A 2017 study by US transport researchers said the navigation technology has “led to new congestion patterns that never existed before”.

The problem is even worse in cities like San Francisco that have allowed artificially intelligent self-driving cars: With no driver to judge whether a route is a good idea, some previously quiet streets get mobbed by parades of self-driving cars whose identical algorithms have all decided to clog up the same street at the same time. 


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