Digital maps that dodge traffic jams are saving time for millions of motorists, but they’re also turning some neighborhood streets into headache-inducing escape routes from congested highways.
The unsettling side effects of traffic-tackling technology are popping up more frequently as more drivers depend on smartphones equipped with navigation apps like Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps.
Now, automakers are increasingly integrating those tools into dashboard consoles, making it likely that even more drivers will follow directions down roads that they otherwise would never have known.
“People are becoming trained to just blindly follow their mapping apps. The concern is the apps aren’t making any distinction between what happens when cars travel on highways and when they travel on city streets by schools and through neighborhoods,” says Hans Larsen, public works director in Fremont, California, a San Francisco Bay area suburb on the fringes of Silicon Valley.
The traffic being diverted off clogged highways during the morning and evening commutes became so insufferable in Fremont that city leaders decided about a year ago to try to outwit the apps. The city of about 230,000 people started to ban turns at several key intersections at certain times along the shortcuts being touted by Waze and other mapping services.
Before police began handing out tickets, Fremont even set up electronic signs blinking this admonishment: “Don’t Trust Your Apps.”
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