On Tuesday, a crew from Billy L. Nabors Demolition travelled to 7601 Cousteau Drive in Rowlett, Texas, and tore down a duplex that had been damaged by a tornado. Unfortunately, it seems that Google Maps had led them astray—they were actually on Calypso Drive, and had torn down the wrong house.
Google (GOOG) quickly admitted the error, telling CNNMoney:
“Google Maps did indeed show incorrect information for the houses in question. Both addresses were shown as being in the same location (7601 Calypso Dr) on Google Maps . . . the issue was fixed as soon as it was brought to our attention.”
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Most of us have followed GPS directions down some lost highway or mislabeled cul-de-sac. But the incident highlights that when it comes to more weighty matters than getting to a party on time, it’s a good idea to confirm the information against old-fashioned street signs.
Compounding the initial foulup, it seems Nabors Demolition is going out of its way to commit every public relations sin in the book. The company’s CEO told ABC affiliate WFAA the mistake was “not a big deal.” The Verge reports that the company told the mistakenly destroyed home’s owner, Lindsay Diaz, to get ready for “’a nasty fight‘” for damages.
For more on the pitfalls of mapping, watch our video:
Aside from the lessons in how not to deal with a corporate crisis, the incident has a surprising implication for the path to self-driving cars. These sorts of small errors in Google’s and other digital maps are fairly common, and with the exception of the occasional demolition crew or Japanese tourist, humans are able to compensate. AIs don’t have the same level of redundancy, so helping them navigate reliably means making maps pretty much flawless.