Simon Weckert, an artist from Germany, came up with an idea to game Google Maps by tricking it into thinking several Berlin streets were cramped up with traffic.
Now, as is the case with almost all art, there seems to be a thin line seperating whether this is brilliant or eye-rolling, so we'll just lay it out for you and you can be the judge.
In order to accomplish his goal (and also make his point), Weckert put 99 smartphones into a wagon before dragging it around the city. As you'll be able to see in the video below, the hack works, transforming formerly green (empty) streets into orange and red (full and fuller) streets on the app. Engadget points out that he also pulls his wagon right outside Google's Berlin office at one point.
According to Weckert, the project was intended to draw attention to an increasing dependency on apps like Maps. As he wrote:
Google Maps makes virtual changes to the real city. Applications such as Airbnb and Carsharing have an immense impact on cities: on their housing market and mobility culture, for instance. There is also a major impact on how we find a romantic partner, thanks to dating platforms such as Tinder, and on our self-quantifying behaviour, thanks to the nike jogging app. Or map-based food delivery-app like deliveroo or foodora. All of these apps function via interfaces with Google Maps and create new forms of digital capitalism and commodification. Without these maps, car sharing systems, new taxi apps, bike rental systems and online transport agency services such as Uber would be unthinkable. An additional mapping market is provided by self-driving cars; again, Google has already established a position for itself.
Google actually responded to the project, telling 9to5Google that they'd use the footage's lessons to improve the service. They also said that they'll use multiple sources to gauge traffic jams, not relying solely on phones for that.
In either event you can watch Weckert's project below, and add yourself to the million-plus who've seen it since it was posted to YouTube on Saturday: