An Aussie state was up in arms over a Google glitch that left dozens of businesses stranded. But the tech giant has promised to change.
Google is working to regain the trust of Queenslanders after dozens of outback businesses said the tech giant’s bad estimates was causing tourists to skip the picturesque region.
Acting Queensland Premier Cameron Dick said earlier this week he had sent a letter to the head of Google Australia and New Zealand, Mel Silva, asking her to fast-track amendments of the travel times.
One particularly drastic example was the trip from Birdsville, on the Queensland border, up to the Western Star Hotel in Windorah.
Google Maps first had the trip, a 380km journey, listed as taking close to 11 hours.
After the company was contacted about the inflated hours, Google dropped the travel time to seven hours, 49 minutes.
While less extreme, the quoted travel time would still leave the driver doing around 50km/h the entire trip.
Google had updated some travel times at the request of outback businesses, but even updated journey times were still inaccurate.
Speaking to The Australiantoday, Mr Dick said he’d received a response from the tech company, which had started liaising with outback businesses and local councils to properly amend travel times.
“We’ve worked hard with councils to improve roads in regional and outback Queensland, and now Google is catching up to reduce travel times,” Mr Dick said.
“Providing accurate travel times will give people more reasons to go bush with the family.”
Businesses in outback Queensland are already battling a seemingly never-ending drought, leading Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to declare 2019 as the “year of the Outback”.
“The best Christmas present the Outback can get is rain,” the Queensland Premier said in December.
“We can’t make it rain but we can fill those hotel rooms and camping grounds with tourists. Every year the bush comes to the city for the Ekka. Next year, let’s return the favour and have a great holiday at the same time out west.”
Outback Queensland Tourism Association General Manager Peter Homan previously said those planning an outback trip should steer clear of Google Maps until the problem is fixed, and head straight to the source of local knowledge.
“Every shire has a Visitor Information Centre, with the best information about travel times, what’s going on in the local area, distances, the best watering holes, where to catch fish,” Mr Homan told AAP.
“They can just give them a call, and they’re also full of local characters so they’ll have a good yarn, too.”
Mr Homan said tourism was crucial for outback towns struggling with drought, which is entering its eighth year in some regions.
“It’s incredibly important; it’s the industry that’s keeping a lot of the local communities together,” he said.
“It’s more than money coming into their towns, it gives retailers an opportunity to sell their products, it’s giving people pride in their towns.”
The state government last year announced it would pump $10 million into 15 new outback tourism projects including glamping, luxury artesian baths, a glass-floored bridge across Cobbold Gorge and a new home for Australia’s biggest fossil, Cooper the dinosaur.