Google is being sued for negligence by the family of a North Carolina man who died after driving his car off a collapsed bridge while following directions given by Google Maps.
Philip Paxton, a medical device salesman and father of two drowned in September last year after his jeep plunged off the bridge that had broken off nine years ago.
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In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, his family claimed that multiple people had notified Google Maps about the collapse in the years leading up to Paxson’s death and had urged the company to update its route information.
What happened on the day?
Paxton and his wife, Alicia, threw a camping-themed party for their daughter at a friend’s home in Hickory, a neighbourhood in North Carolina. However, Paxton had never visited the house before that day and was also “generally unfamiliar” with the area, according to the lawsuit.
While his wife went early to set up, Paxton stayed up late to clean up and drove back home alone. When he allegedly followed Google Maps to make the approximately 10-minute drive back home, Paxton did not know that there was a collapsed bridge, the suit reads.
Around 11pm, in the pitch-black area of the bridge where no artificial lighting was present, Paxton’s vehicle “drove off an unguarded edge of the bridge and crashed approximately twenty feet below”, the suit says.
First responders found the 47-year-old’s jeep upside down and partially submerged in the creek, WBTV reported.
What does the lawsuit tell us?
Images from Kim Ellis, a Hickory resident, show two “suggest an edit” notifications she had sent to Google Maps about drivers being directed to the bridge.
In November 2020, Google sent her an email confirming that they had received her report and were reviewing the suggestion, yet the technology giant did not take further action, the lawsuit claims.
Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesperson, expressed his sympathies for the Paxton family.
“Our goal is to provide accurate routing information in Maps and we are reviewing this lawsuit,” he told The Associated Press news agency.
Has Google Maps let users down before?
Yes. This is not the first time Google Maps has been held responsible for dangerous misdirection by its users.
Last month, a woman in her 20s was driving alone from Alice Springs in Australia to a Harts Range rodeo late in the night when following Google Maps left her stranded in the Central Australian desert for a night.
After a while of driving across a dirt road and along a fence line, her car nosedived into a ditch.
The nurse later discovered that Google Maps was leading her to the actual Harts Ranges rather than the site of the rodeo, reported ABC News.
In 2021, a young Oregon couple got stuck in the snow after Google Maps directed them onto an unmaintained road.
When they eventually started to turn back, the snow on the unplowed road was too deep to let them out.
When a tow truck was sent to rescue them, emergency teams had to send another truck to free it from the harsh winter of the Northwest state.
In 2019, hundreds of Colorado drivers learned that Google Maps’ supposed detour out of a traffic jam was actually leading them to a muddy ditch.
After a crash took place on Pena Boulevard, a road leading to Denver International Airport, drivers following the app were redirected to a detour that ended up being a dirt road, reported CNN.
Rain had turned the route into a muddy mess that some vehicles could not get through, causing almost 100 other cars to get trapped behind them.