As an experiment and prank, an artist put 99 smartphones in a trolley, and walked around roads in Berlin to trick Google Maps into thinking there was a traffic jam, in a piece of performance art titled Google Maps Hacks.
Google Maps uses the locations of it’s users to map out areas of high traffic and warn users to avoid traffic jams.
Google reasonably expects each individual phone using Google Maps’ driver navigation to represent a separate driver. So while anyone on the street sees a man carrying a small trolley, Google instead sees 99 people driving. Which has the effect of Google warning their users to stay away from that road.
This was done to examine the relationship between the virtual world and the real one, with changes to how Google Maps sees the world having an affect on the real world.
Of course, it does nothing to affect anyone who isn’t using Google Maps, and any driver who actually sees the road will realise the road is clear. It may divert some traffic away, but it’s unlikely to be able to clear out an entire area of traffic or control where vehicles go.
Although referred to as Google Maps Hacks, it’s different to what most people think of as hacking. The term hacker originally had a much broader definition, covering people who liked to discover new tricks that could be done with technology, which like this example, often didn’t involve unauthorised access at all.