Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Online Map Tragedy

This is a sad note.

As everyone, I was rooting for James to find his way back. And I didn't want to write about sadness. But of his effort, bravery and safe return.

Looking at a AAA map from the region I can see clearly that route 23 approaching the Rogue River is closed during winters. Was the map James looked at also warning about it?

It all started it seems, when James Kim a former editor at CNet put his trust in technology in the form of NavTeq provided directions through MapQuest (notice the "Avoid Seasonally-Closed Roads" box checked at the top right) using Bear Camp Road to reach Gold Beach in the Oregon coast.

No, no GPS on board. It was reported that a printout with directions was found in the car. That road as locals advise shouldn't be open during winter.

While trying to go back and taking a wrong turn into a fire road (BLM 34-8-36 initially reported to have a lock cut off by vandals sometime in November, was in fact left open for hunters) the Saab got stuck among bushes and snow and they couldn't move forward. Kim left his family to look for help after a week stranded.

The good piece of technology and engineering providence came from a brief signal from the Kim's cell that got picked up and traced to the location of their Saab. That saved Kim's daughters and wife. The Mercury News details the process.

An Oregon resident asked in the blog published by the Chronicle to have TeleAtlas and NavTeq modifying their map data to remove this road from their travel directions and avoid other tragedies to occur.

From the Chronicle:

"However, they missed the turnoff [to take state Highway 42 over to the coast], consulted a map and decided to drive the 55 miles down Interstate 5 to Grants Pass. There they turned onto Bear Camp Road, which is lightly traveled even in the summer and often is closed in the winter."

The keeper of the hotel Kim's family was planning to reach didn't recommend it.
"Terri Stone, an innkeeper at the Tu Tu Tun Lodge in Gold Beach, where the Kims were to have stayed the night of Nov. 25, said the Bear Camp Road is shown on some Internet road-direction sites as the best way to get to the coast from Grants Pass, but she advises against it. 'It looks like the shortest distance, but it is very, very treacherous,' she said."

The Chronicle put out a list of recommendations, among them:

"Just because MapQuest provides directions does not mean they are correct. Get independent verification of every destination and carry a detailed road map."

This is a sad tale. Our meditations and prayers go to Kim and his family. Go read Nevius' healing column on today's Chronicle.

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