Google Maps leaves visitors to Australian lighthouse town in the dark
There is nothing particularly special about Adam Gilliver’s house on the Victorian coast, except that it sits a bit further back from the road compared with the homes of his neighbours.
And that Google Maps thinks it’s a lighthouse.
As reported by Fairfax Media this week, improperly placed GPS pins, such as one in the sleepy suburb of Dargan in New South Wales, can take hundreds of visitors to the wrong streets.
In Dargan, users looking for spectacular vistas of the Blue Mountains were directed to a residential cul-de-sac. In Victoria, those searching for Aireys Inlet on the Great Ocean Road, without putting in more specific details, were directed to Gilliver’s driveway.
“Where the pin is dropped on Google Maps, it is essentially on our property,” he says.
“Aireys Inlet is pretty much at the start of the Great Ocean Road and our town is an iconic town in the sense that it has a lighthouse. It’s one of only four or five towns along the road with one. Tourists regularly come down our property looking for all sorts of things. People go looking for the lighthouse and end up coming down our driveway.”
At weekends, Gilliver sees about five visitors a day idling down his street in a confused state.
“At first we found it funny. It’s not a huge inconvenience. They stop at the driveway, look in. We probably get one each day that actually drives down the driveway.”
Because his house is less visible from the road than the other properties, curious visitors sometimes venture down his driveway in the hope that something of interest lie at the end.
In Dargan, locals have had to construct a sign telling visitors to search for Katoomba, or more specific destinations, instead of just typing in the region.
Mark O’Charrigan, the owner of the Hatter’s Hideout lodge in Dargan, says he comes across confused visitors every week.
“Where Google is actually directing them to is a road just near my place. I know all the people near the end of that road … I built most of their houses. It’s creating a huge problem down there.”
He says the number of accidental visitors is placing stress on the facilities of what is a very small residential street.
“There’s absolutely no facilities for them whatsoever. No water or toilets or anything like that. Some of the neighbours near the end of that road put out a garbage bin for the amount of garbage people are throwing there.
“Some people can get fairly upset that they didn’t end up where they thought they were and they need to go on another 40-minute drive to get there.”
In April, Michael McElwee, of Darwin, was left similarly aggrieved after Google Maps listed his home as a pizza shop – confusing it with a pop-up restaurant that was sometimes set up in a nearby park.
“I don’t know how many people have turned up at my house thinking it was a pizza place,” he told the ABC. “My daughter has been approached by people wanting to know what time we open.”
While the pin in Dargan was moved after Google was contacted by Fairfax Media, nothing has been done in Aireys Inlet, Gilliver says.
“We have in the past gotten in contact with Google Maps who said they would fix it but they haven’t.
“We both work during the day, but we don’t want a fence around our property. We kind of wonder how many people come down our driveway when we’re not there.”
A Google spokeswoman said the maps data came from a wide range of sources, including third parties and public contributions, and they were investigating the pin placement in Aireys Inlet.
“We recognise that there may be occasional inaccuracies that could arise from any of those sources,” she said.
“[In Dargan] we didn’t get it quite right and we have now fixed it. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to local residents and visitors.”
O’Charrigan says the problem is common in the area and has worsened recently.
“The last 12 months it’s accelerated hugely. It’s been on Google Maps incorrectly for quite a number of years, but for some reason the usage of Google Maps has changed.
“Google Maps are picking up a lot of stuff off old paper maps, and in the mountains here a lot of those roads were not actually constructed.
“When I was in Ireland last year, there’s multiple towns, districts, town lands and parish lands, with the same name. If you just type them into Google, they can take you anywhere. I might use my phone but I’ll have a paper map with me.”
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