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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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I got 99 cellphones, and a traffic jam is one problem

Artist Simon Wreckert dumped 99 Android phones in a red wagon to create the illusion of a traffic jam on Google Maps:

Artist Simon Wreckert walked the streets of Berlin tugging a red wagon behind him. Wherever he went, Google Maps showed a congested traffic jam. People using Google Maps would see a thick red line indicating congestion on the road, even when there was no traffic at all. Each and every one of those 99 phones had Google Maps open, giving the virtual illusion that the roads were jam packed.

Algorithms are the layer through which we interpret so much of our world today, and while we’re all becoming more cognizant about how they influence things like what we see online or the inherent bias in hiring people, it’s fascinating to see how they can even have an impact on things that we think are our own choices—like taking a different route because of a traffic jam. 1

Google, for its part, has responded to say that examples like this help “make maps work better over time.”


  1. Personally, though, I think this would be a great plot point for a heist movie. Just force that armored car onto a road that’s less traveled by… 

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