When I arrived in Bologna yesterday I was well prepared. I had found my hotel on Google Maps and printed out the map. I had plenty of time, so rather than take a taxi from the airport I decided to take the bus and then a short walk to the hotel.
All went well, I thought; I got off at the right stop, crossed the river, and walked to where the hotel was on my map. It a sizeable hotel and is even marked on the map.
Oh dear. No hotel. I was on the right road, but instead of a welcoming hostelry there was a high fence behind which was a residential area.
I sought directions. Unfortunately I don’t speak Italian, but I pointed at the hotel on my Google Map. My helpers did not speak English but helpfully pointed me back the way that I came.
I turned on my smartphone. Bing Maps could not find the hotel at all, a fact confirmed by the full browser version.
I tried Nokia Drive. That could find the hotel, but placed it in the same wrong place as Google Maps. I walked there anyway. I was standing right next to the finish flag, no hotel.
Again I sought directions. This time my helper spoke good English. “It is the other side of the river”, he said. Only about 10-15 minutes walk, but still.
He was right. Here is the hotel’s map on its site, again a Google map but note with its own pushpin.
Google maps thinks it is east of the river, but in fact it is west of the river, approximately 1.5km away from Google’s location.
The hotel is not particularly small.
No surprise I guess that Google Maps has errors, but I am surprised that a prominent hotel in a well-known city is so significantly misplaced. And that Nokia Drive has the same wrong information, suggesting a common source.
The lesson: local knowledge is best.
It gives me pause for thought though. On the web, if Google cannot find you, traffic drops alarmingly. Could the same be true in the physical world? Could there be future lawsuits over lost business from missing or incorrect information on IT systems on which we rely?
Fortunately I was still in good time for a nice plate of pasta before bed.
Postscript: The hotel told us that it is aware of the issue and has told Google “many times” but has been unable to get it corrected.
Another point worth mentioning: in order to find the right bus I had consulted with Tourist Information at the airport. They had worked out my route using … Google Maps. It shows the extent Google’s service is embedded into our way of life, increasing the significance of errors.