Navigating the Los Angeles area and avoiding traffic is a difficult enough proposition, but it must be especially scary this week for people fleeing or trying to steer clear of the wildfires that are wreaking havoc on the region.
Because so many folks now rely on navigation apps to get around, a particular headache related to those services was called out in a story this week by the Los Angeles Times.
As the Santa Ana winds have fueled a number of different fires across Southern California, thousands of people have been forced to flee and mandatory evacuation areas have been established.
According to the Times, the Los Angeles Police Department has asked drivers to avoid using navigation apps because they direct people to routes that are less congested. But in the fire-ravaged region, that means streets in neighborhoods that are on fire.
Joel Rubin, a Times reporter, called out that point in a tweet on Wednesday evening, and the back and forth in the replies illustrated everything from concern to irony to fear of the rise of automation and AI.
"The Los Angeles Police Department asked drivers to avoid navigation apps, which are steering users onto more open routes — in this case, streets in the neighborhoods that are on fire." https://t.co/I3sICDIF4A
— Joel Rubin (@joelrubin) December 7, 2017
The folks at Waze, the community-based navigation and traffic app, weighed in with their own tweets after people wondered why the evacuation zones weren’t being edited into available reports.
The company said Thursday that it was working with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and its community of users to mark closures as well as pinpoint shelter locations.
Some state and local agencies are already working directly with volunteer @Waze map editors to make sure closures are posted. Anyone with additional closure information can send us a message and we'll get it implemented immediately. #WazeCommunity
— Waze USA (@Waze_USA) December 7, 2017
Southern California: Use Waze to find safety from the #wildfires. Together with @LADOTofficial & the #WazeCommunity we've marked 110 closures & 16 shelters, with more updates every minute. Need assistance now? Type "help" into your search bar & find your nearest, open shelter. pic.twitter.com/3HHcrrPp8v
— waze (@waze) December 7, 2017
If you missed it this week, here’s one video that gives an idea of what it looks like to drive down the freeway during a major wildfire: