Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Hey Siri, how do I get to Ely?

Popular map apps lead drivers down unexpected roads

Marcus White
Posted 7/25/18

REGIONAL—Ely may be at the end of the road, but at least it’s a paved road.

That’s a subtlety apparently lost on a surprising number of motorists who have found themselves directed by their …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Hey Siri, how do I get to Ely?

Popular map apps lead drivers down unexpected roads

Posted

REGIONAL—Ely may be at the end of the road, but at least it’s a paved road.

That’s a subtlety apparently lost on a surprising number of motorists who have found themselves directed by their phones onto Six Mile Lake Road in recent weeks, despite the opening of the newly-realigned Hwy. 169 between Tower and Ely. They’ve been following the direction of online mapping applications such as Apple Maps on iPhones and Google Maps on Android smartphones and it’s left many of them with damaged vehicles or, literally, stuck in the mud.

Bob Reichensperger, owner of Bob’s Service and Towing in Tower, said he knows of at least six cars that have been stuck on Six Mile Lake Road, although local residents on the rough and rugged road say it’s been many more than that.

“Once you get down there, you just can’t back up,” he said. Three cars have been pulled off the roadway in recent weeks by his tow truck.

Michael Kalnbach, Assistant District Engineer with MnDOT, said the agency is aware of the problem, and has sent requests to Apple to have the app updated.

As of the Timberjay’s presstime, however, Apple had not yet updated its map. Apple did not return a request for comment.

Google maps has updated its program and no longer directs travelers onto Six Mile Lake Road.

While urging the tech firms to fix their programs, Kalnback said, it’s not just the app at fault for the unintentional detours, and drivers should be attentive to their surroundings and not “blindly listening” to what their device tells them.

“It’s a little disappointing to me that folks would turn off from a new section of road onto a narrow section of gravel road to get to Ely,” Kalnbach said. “We’ve never encountered something like this before.”

Apple isn’t the only app with a routing problem along the Hwy. 169. Kalnbach said Google Maps still had drivers using their map app routed along the old alignment which went out of disuse earlier this summer.

To remedy the situation, MnDOT placed a “Road closed to through traffic” sign earlier this week at Six Mile Lake Road. Whether that will stem the flow of misdirected drivers remains to be seen.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment