This week, nearly a hundred drivers followed a digital Pied Piper into an empty field in Colorado, U.S.A. where they all got stuck.
A crash on Peña Boulevard in Denver chocked off access to the Denver International Airport on Sunday. So Google Maps suggested a detour to many of the drivers trying to get to flights or pick up arriving travellers.
“I thought, ‘Maybe there’s a detour’ and pulled it up on Google Maps, and it gave me a detour that was half the time,” Connie Monsees told CNN. “It was 43 minutes initially, and it was going to be 23 instead, so I took the exit and drove where they told me to.”
But that detour led her to a dirt road near the border of Denver and Aurora. She wasn’t immediately concerned thanks to crowd psychology.
“My thought was, ‘Well, all these other cars are in front of me, so it must be OK,” Monsees told ABC News’s Denver affiliate.
Then the dirt road turned into a muddy slop, as there had been rain in the area in the previous days.
“That’s when I thought, ‘Oh this was a bad decision,’” she told ABC, which reports that about 100 cars had taken the detour and ended up in the muddy empty field. A couple of cars in the front of the line got stuck in the mud. The road was tight and only allowed passage of one car at a time, so all the other cars got stuck behind the leaders of the pack.
“The question is, why did Google send us out there to begin with? There was no turning back once you were out there,” Monsees told ABC, which reports that the road is privately owned. ABC found a knocked over “road closed” sign next to the road, but couldn’t confirm with Denver or Aurora if the road was closed to public traffic.
Google told Gizmodo the road wasn’t listed as private and users can report road closures to Google.
“We take many factors into account when determining driving routes, including the size of the road and the directness of the route,” Google told Gizmodo, in a statement. “While we always work to provide the best directions, issues can arise due to unforeseen circumstances, such as when weather conditions affect the quality of roads. We encourage all drivers to follow local laws, stay attentive, and use their best judgement while driving.
Monsees’s Hyundai Santa Fe has all-wheel drive, so she was able to escape. She told ABC News she even gave a few people rides to the airport – one of which was a passenger of an Uber that got stuck in the field.