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Apple Maps, Google Maps routed Washington highway drivers onto dirt road

For around a month, both Apple Maps and Google Maps routed eastbound drivers around I-90 construction in Washington State, sending them down dirt roads where they got stuck and had to be towed.

It's a decade since errors in Apple Maps were being described as life-threatening, but it's still possible for changes in real-world conditions to not be represented on the map. From early October 2022 to November 10, 2022, seeming all online maps and GPS route devices were tripped up by construction work.

According to the Seattle Times, the problem began as Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) worked on widening the I-90 from four to six lanes between Hyak and Easton, in Kittitas County. That work required eastbound traffic to be shifted onto a stretch of the westbound side of the freeway.

The mapping services would first have identified that traffic was being slowed down in the area. The way online maps work, every section of road effectively gets a score to do with its length and traffic conditions, and at some point dirt roads and Forest Service roads were being identified as the better route.

WSDOT spokesperson Summer Derrey told the Seattle Times that as the construction work is due to take up to five years, the department had attempted to contact Apple Maps and Google Maps.

"We recognize there's a problem," she said. "We've been emailing them. [But the] mapping services are not easy to get a hold of."

Reportedly neither Apple nor Google responded to WSDOT. However, both mapping services appeared to fix the problem by November 10, 2022.