“Google Maps Routes Vehicles from Las Vegas into a Desert Hazard”

Posted on: November 30, 2023, 04:41h.

Last updated on: November 30, 2023, 04:41h.

While driving home to L.A. from the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix earlier this month, Shelby Easler and her family saw an unusual Google Maps notification.

It advised them that the straightest route, southwest on Interstate 15, faced an impending dust storm. The app then advised an alternate route — a desert road from Nevada to Southern California that would not only avoid the dust storm but also save the family 50 minutes.

This caravan of cars was trapped for hours on an off-roading path near the southern border between Nevada and California. (Image: Shelby Easler)

Easler’s brother, who was driving their Toyota SUV, followed the directions, which led to a single-lane off-roading path, behind a long caravan of cars following the same directions.

“Because our navigation said we were going three miles and then making a left, we assumed that we would hit a road eventually, and because all the other cars were going straight, we assumed it was leading somewhere, which it was not,” Easler, 22, said in a TikTok video taken during her experience that has garnered 134K likes.

This is the route that Google Maps suggested to follow. The captions were added by Shelby Easler in her TikTok video about the ordeal. (Image: TikTok)

Because a vehicle at the front of the long caravan was already stuck, none behind it could proceed. But the path was too narrow for anyone to turn around, either.

And more vehicles just kept arriving.

No Help from Police

According to Easler, a 911 call didn’t help, because the California Highway Patrol “was dealing with the freeway shutdown and accidents, so they couldn’t get to us.”

After being trapped for several hours, the trapped drivers realized that they needed to turn around, one by one, by driving through thick-barked bushes and over rocks and cacti. Most cars suffered from punctured tires and ruined alignment.

Easler described their SUV as “doneso,” and said her family had to Uber back to Vegas and fly home while it was towed back to Las Vegas for some miracle work.

A Google spokesperson issued a statement to the Washington Post, which also covered the story.

“We apologize for what happened,” the spokesperson said, and can confirm that we’ll no longer route drivers traveling between Las Vegas and Los Angeles down these narrow backroads off Interstate 15 near the California-Nevada border.”

When he shared Easler’s video on Twitter, @LasVegasLocally quipped: “If Google Maps ever sends you to the Mojave Desert, be suspicious. This is how AI will try to take us out.”

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