Incident 227: Waze App Allegedly Caused Tourists’ Car to End up in Lake Champlain, Vermont

Description: The tourists driving through Vermont blamed Waze for directing them into a boat launch in Lake Champlain, prompting the vehicle to slide into the water by the time the drivers realized their location in the dark and foggy weather.
Alleged: Waze developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed tourists and Waze users.

Suggested citation format

Dickinson, Ingrid. (2018-01-12) Incident Number 227. in Lam, K. (ed.) Artificial Intelligence Incident Database. Responsible AI Collaborative.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
227
Report Count
3
Incident Date
2018-01-12
Editors
Khoa Lam

Tools

New ReportNew ReportNew ResponseNew ResponseDiscoverDiscover

Incident Reports

In an episode of The Office come to life, a driver in Vermont steered his car right into Lake Champlain on Friday. The driver says he was using navigation app Waze, which apparently insisted that driving into the lake was the right way to go. “The app directed the drivers to turn onto the boat launch near the Coast Guard station,” the Burlington Free Press reports. “By the time they realized what was happening, the car had slid 100 feet onto the lake. The three people in the car managed to climb out.” Another passenger in the car described conditions as “dark and foggy.” The car remained at the bottom of the lake before it could be retrieved by divers.

A Google spokesperson said that it would be “impossible to comment here without seeing the user’s driving file,” and that the company hadn’t “received permission to do so.” She also reminded people that while using Waze, they should still “use all environmental information available to them to make the best decisions as they drive.” As in, if it looks like a lake and quacks like a lake, don’t drive into it because it’s a lake.

The unnamed driver certainly isn’t the first person to blindly follow technology to a watery end. In June 2017, there was a guy who drove into a lake in Massachusetts and blamed his GPS. He’s joined by a woman in Ontario who similarly navigated into a pond and … blamed her GPS.

Yet Another Person Listens to GPS App and Drives Car Into Lake

Waze has yet to give an explanation as to why the app directed a group of tourists to drive into Lake Champlain earlier this month.

Tara Guertin of Connecticut loaned three of her friends into her car to take up to Vermont for a ski trip two weeks ago.

The group was heading back from doing some sightseeing in Burlington the night of January 12, when the accident happened.

The driver, who has not been identified, was using the Waze app to get them back to their lodgings when it directed them down a boat ramp and straight onto frozen Lake Champlain.

It was dark and foggy so the driver didn't know what had happened until it was too late.

Luckily, all three were able to scramble out of the vehicle before the SUV cracked through the ice and sank into the lake about 100 feet from shore.

At first, Guertin thought that the accident must have been a one-off mistake with the app.

But when she used it herself after the accident, she says she was given the same faulty directions.

Julie Mossler, a spokesman for Waze's parent company Google, said they were unable to explain the accident.

'It's impossible to comment here without seeing the user's driving file and we haven't received permission to do so- generally speaking, Waze maps are updated with millions of edits to adapt to real time road conditions daily, often making them the most accurate available,' she told the Burlington Free Press.

She added that drivers should 'keep their eyes on the road and use all environmental information available to them to make the best decisions as they drive.'

The SUV spent about a week in the lake before dive teams pulled it out on Monday.

Since the SUV had slipped under water, it had to be turned over using a system of balloons. Once it was righted on its wheels, it was pulled out by a winch.

Inside were the group's ski gear and a six-pack of some of Vermont's local craft beer.

The driver has not been charged or cited for the incident.

A police report says that the driver admitted to having one beer at the nearby Foam Brewery before driving, but that he consented to field sobriety tests and did not appear to be intoxicated.

Waze 'directed tourists to drive into lake'

Some tourists driving through Vermont said they ended up in a lake and the blame the driving app Waze.

The app directed them to turn onto a boat launch at the icy Lake Champlain, 9News reported.

The tourists said it was dark and foggy and by the time they realized where they were, the car had slid 100 feet into the water.

The three people inside managed to get out, but the vehicle sunk and a salvage team had to get it out, according to 9News.

Waze officials couldn’t explain what went wrong, but encourages drivers to always keep an eye on the road, 9News reported.

A salvage team removed the car from the water Monday. According to the police report, the car went into the lake on Jan. 12 and had been in the water for over a week when removed, 9News reported.

Tourists blame Waze app after driving into lake