It is one of the greatest revolutions of the technology age: it has never been so easy to find your way in unknown areas as it is today with live updated route guidance. This is said to have led to a tragic accident in North Carolina. The family is now suing Google because of this.

Last September, Philip Paxson was driving home late in the evening from his daughter’s birthday in heavy rain through an unfamiliar area. Near the town of Hickory, Google Maps guided him over a bridge. What he didn’t know: The bridge had collapsed nine years ago. Paxton’s Jeep fell six meters into the river below and the 47-year-old drowned in his car. Rescue workers were only able to recover his body.

Of course, it was known in the area that the bridge no longer existed – and Google had also been informed about it several times, as the family’s lawsuit shows. As a result, a resident used the map service’s change suggestion function in 2020 to point out that Google was recommending routes over the bridge, which was no longer passable. A response email from the company sent two months later confirmed receipt of the proposal and it would be examined, it says.

“I can’t understand how those in charge of the GPS and the bridge have so little regard for human life,” widow Alicia Paxton told the Associated Press. “Our daughters ask why their dad died and I don’t have an answer.” A Google spokesman expressed the company’s sympathy towards the family to several media outlets. “Our goal is to provide the most accurate route information possible. We will investigate this lawsuit closely.”

The fact that Paxton was able to simply drive over the bridge is not just due to the incorrect route. Apparently there were neither barriers nor warning signs indicating the collapse. According to the traffic police, the bridge belonged to a private company, which has since gone bankrupt. Neither the state nor local authorities are responsible for maintaining the bridge. The lawsuit names several other companies that are said to own the road and the adjacent land.

Quellen:Associated Press, The Guardian