Google Maps will avoid directing motorists through crime hotspots, Pretoria FM reports.
This comes after tourism minister Patricia de Lille and Google country director Alistair Mokoena signed a memorandum of understanding at Parliament on Monday.
Although the official statement does not mention excluding potentially dangerous routes from Google Maps, Mokoena told journalists that they have been speaking to officials about adding the feature.
Speaking to Daily Maverick, Mokoena said Google has been working with the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Transport MEC, the mayor’s office, and the head of Cape Town tourism to understand what the crime hotspots are in the region.
Criminals have reportedly been throwing rocks at cars driving along the N2 near Cape Town, and one recent incident saw a U.S. tourist surviving being shot in the face after his phone directed him through Nyanga.
In the U.S. tourist’s case, News24 reported that he was on his way to accommodation in Simon’s Town and was using his iPhone to navigate.
His phone’s navigation application warned him of heavy traffic on the freeway and suggested he cut through Nyanga instead.
It is unclear whether he used Google Maps, Waze (which Google owns), Apple Maps, or another app.
“When it comes to recommending routes, we look at what is the fastest possible way to get you from point A to point B… we look at the nature of the road, the quality, the surface of the road, we look at safety,” Mokoena said.
“By ‘safe’, I mean routes that have not been declared by the City and authorities as crime hotspots, because we can only work with information that’s currently available.”
Mokoena said Nyanga would be their first focus area as there had been several incidents, and they want to ensure it doesn’t reoccur.
“Then we’ll look at a more kind of national solution, which is looking at the crime hotspots around the country,” he said.
“I believe there’s 59 of those.”
Mokoena said adding crime hotspots to Google Maps is only part of the equation.
“There has to be visible signage warning people. Even before you come to Cape Town or to the country when you’re doing research… there should be information around tourism safety.”