Culture

Following GPS, a woman is shot dead in a dangerous neighborhood

Technically Incorrect: A Brazilian woman uses the Waze app to find a particular street. However, there are two streets with similar names in the vicinity. One leads to a favela.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


The Waze app has many good features. But it is just an app. Waze

They were on their way to meet their daughter for a pizza.

Regina Múrmura, 70, was traveling toward Niteroi in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. She typed the address into the Waze app on her phone. Or, at least, she typed what she thought was the address.

As the Washington Post reports, she and her 69-year-old husband were supposed to be heading to the beach. Instead, the app reportedly gave them directions to a favela, a dangerous slum.

There, she and her husband were shot at, allegedly by drug gangs. Murmura died. Her husband was saved, possibly by silver candlesticks that absorbed the bullets.

Waze expressed its condolences but noted that its app can't stop drivers from traveling to the address they select.

"We were incredibly saddened to hear of this incident and our thoughts are with Regina Múrmura's family," a Waze spokeswoman said. "User safety is of the utmost importance to Waze. Unfortunately, it's hard to prevent drivers from navigating to a dangerous neighborhood if it's the destination they select. Residents of these areas need to be able to get home."

It seems that Murmura may have typed in the equivalent of Such-and-Such "Street" instead of "Avenue."

Waze, which is owned by Google, could theoretically block routes to favelas -- though there are many around Rio. However, the app wouldn't then help those who live there.

"If a government in any country prohibits citizens from passing through a certain neighborhood or region, we try to revise the Waze map accordingly. Waze leaders will meet in person with municipal officials in Brazil this week to understand how the city is addressing the risk of driving throughout Rio de Janeiro," the spokeswoman told me.

Perhaps the company needs to do more to raise alerts when known dangerous areas appear on a route.

Still, slavishly following directions from a GPS also has its difficulties. There have been many cases where drivers have carried on listening to their apps, even though their eyes tell them something very different, such as that there is an impassable road or a cliff in the way.

Earlier this year, a woman died after her husband followed GPS directions and went off a disused bridge.

This is not to blame the victims in any of these cases. Disorientation can occur regardless of whether you're using GPS.

It's only a reminder that with every such technology, it's always worth checking every element.

(Via G1 News)