Get Gephardt: Map app confusion sends visitors, deliveries to wrong homes in Vineyard and Orem
Dec 18, 2023, 10:52 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2023, 6:20 am
OREM – Make no mistake, the KSL Investigators knew this assignment: meet a man in Orem sick of deliveries getting messed up because of map apps sending people to the wrong place.
But after plugging the right address and the right city into the Google Maps app, we still wound up at a home three miles west, in Vineyard. While that made us late to our interview with Jesse Gross, better late than never, which is more than Gross can say for many of his deliveries.
“They mess it up, big time,” Gross said.
A tale of two neighborhoods
Like many Utah cities, Orem is on the grid system. The house has a number. The street has a number. Those same numbers can take you to lots of different addresses, depending on what city you input. But despite inputting Orem, Gross is frustrated that map apps keep taking people to the same numbered house on the same numbered street in a completely different neighborhood in Vineyard — and vice versa.
“It makes us nervous because our mirrored address,” Gross said. “Our buddy down there in Vineyard, they are an Airbnb.”
That fact has led to awkward moments.
“People get sent here thinking this is the Airbnb, our home, and they’ve actually walked inside out house before,” he said. It’s not just Gross’ house. He told us neighbors up and down the street have had the same issue.
“We’ve had a car from Carvana get delivered to our neighbor up the street here,” he said.
At best, this mapping error is a hassle. Worse, it is costing people and businesses in lost packages and misdelivered meals. But worst of all, it can create some potentially dangerous situations.
“We’ve had medicine delivered to our home that was for a cancer patient in Vineyard,” said Gross, who says these misdeliveries have been going on for five years since the Vineyard subdivision with mirroring addresses came online.
He said they have reached out to everyone they can think of to try and get the issue fixed.
“They acknowledge it’s a problem,” he said. “They know it’s a problem. They’re just not fixing it.”
So, Gross asked the KSL Investigators to investigate.
Who’s responsible for map accuracy?
Having accurate maps can be an important safety issue: no one wants to call 911 only to have an ambulance go to the wrong place. Yet, short of that — the government pretty much washes its hands of forcing private companies to fix issues with their maps.
Even though the government owns many of the satellites that our devices use for GPS, the U.S. Space Force writes:
Please understand that the U.S. government cannot correct mapping errors in consumer devices and apps. The government’s GPS satellites are simply beacons, like lighthouses, that devices use to calculate their own latitude and longitude. The satellites do not transmit any mapping information.
There has been a smattering of lawsuits filed against mapping companies over errors including a suit filed by a North Carolina family in September alleging Google Maps led their father off a collapsed bridge. Back here in Utah, the KSL Investigators decided to test a few mapping apps.
We found that two of the most popular, Google Maps and Apple Maps, both had the issue plaguing Gross’ neighborhood. When we input the address, the app offered two identical addresses, both reading Orem. But depending on which one we clicked, the app could either take us to Orem or send us to Vineyard. We reached out to both Apple and Google. Neither company responded.
But maybe, just maybe, Google Maps fixed this bug, because after our email, we were not able to recreate the issue that led us and so many others to the wrong neighborhood in the wrong town.
How to report map issues
The U.S. Space Force says the best way to correct mapping issues is to reach out to the company that has it wrong.
This Google support page shows how to report mapping errors with its Maps app. Google also owns Waze. To report problems with the Waze app, this support page has that information.
Apple’s Maps User Guide has information on reporting issues here.
Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at firstname.lastname@example.org or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.