Google Maps: We're Going to Scrap That Desert Detour

GPS sent cars onto unpaved roads in California desert, and they had to turn back
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2023 6:06 AM CST
Google Maps to Drivers: Sorry About Desert Detour
Stock image of a desert landscape.   (Getty / Nastco)

Google Maps is officially apologizing for sending a caravan of cars on an unpaved detour in the California desert from which they all had to turn around. Everyone got out safely, though at least one car suffered expensive damage, reports the Washington Post. The GPS ordeal happened on Nov. 19, a Sunday. Californian Shelby Easler tells SFGate that she and her family were trying to return from Las Vegas when Google Maps alerted them that Interstate 15 was shut down because of a dust storm. It directed them instead to take an alternate route that looked fine on a map, not so fine in real life. Her gone-viral TikTok video shows cars bumper to bumper on the unpaved route that eventually became not much more than a dirt trail.

"Nobody was turning around," the 23-year-old Easler tells the Post. "So we figured that it led somewhere." It did not. "The first driver that turned around talked to us to tell us that the road gets washed out the higher into the mountain you get, and we have to turn around since the path leads nowhere," she tells SFGate. "He was in a huge truck and was just driving straight through the bushes and shrubs to let people know to turn around." The Easlers managed to do so, as did other drivers, and began heading back the way they came. By the time the family reached a paved road, they had major damage to a rear wheel of their SUV and needed to have their vehicle towed from a gas station. They got home via Uber.

"We apologize for what happened last weekend, 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," Google spokesperson Genevieve Park tells the Post. "Today, drivers making that trip are being routed through Interstate 15, which has been reopened." (More Google Maps stories.)

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