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Wrecking Crew Demolishes Wrong Housing Duplex Following Google Maps Error (cnet.com) 225

An anonymous reader writes: A demolition company has leveled the wrong housing duplex after one of its employees was misled by a Google Maps error. Instead of bringing down a house destroyed by a tornado in Rowlett, Texas at 7601 Cousteau Drive, the wrecking crew demolished another home at 7601 and 7603 Calypso Drive, a block away. Owners of the second house were waiting for their house to be repaired, since it didn't suffer major damages in the tornado. The demolition company's CEO dismissed the incident as "not a big deal." The wrecking crew used Google Maps to find the house to demolish because they were brought in from a neighboring town, but failed to double-check with a neighbor before starting their work. A Google engineer confirmed that Google Maps was showing the wrong information.
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Wrecking Crew Demolishes Wrong Housing Duplex Following Google Maps Error

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:17PM (#51778561)

    "All information contained with Google Maps is provided for Entertainment purposes only and should not be relied upon for complete accuracy, up to and including: GPS guidance for self-guided weapons systems, Pizza Delivery, and House Demolition."

    • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

      I never rely on street numbers in maps apps. It may have improved since I cared (circa 2006), but in my experience it's at best interpolated data from a variety of sources that may not be 100% accurate.

      • by Megane ( 129182 )
        In one neighborhood where I grew up, Google street maps has the house numbers increasing southward when they should be increasing northward. It's the only block of the street, the numbering starts with 1, and it's pretty long, with at least 20 half-acre lots along both sides. I'm going to guess that the other parallel streets in the neighborhood are similarly misnumbered.
        • by hjf ( 703092 )

          In my city (Resistencia, Argentina) google has *ALL* of the house numbers wrong. "Even numbers on the right hand, odd numbers on the left" is the standard. But google, for some reason, has the opposite. So, Google Street View shows my business as the house across the street.

          Of course, GOOD FUCKING LUCK trying to change that.

  • WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:19PM (#51778573)

    Seems like you should be using official zoning maps from the city for something like this...

    • Re: WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:28PM (#51778633) Homepage Journal

      or, y'know, check the demolition permit taped to the front door? I don't care who issues those permits, per se, but a crew needs to at least verify that.

      One project I managed involved a demo - there was a ton of paperwork and I had to sign papers, on-site, as owner-representative before the excavator started in.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I think I'm this instance both houses were badly storm damaged so they probably just saw something that looked like it was condemned and got on with it. It might actually save the "victim" money if they get a free demolition and can skip straight to rebuilding.

      • by GNious ( 953874 )

        From watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, it seems that it's pretty trivial to tear down houses :)

        Of cause, I'm not sure I'd want to live in the things they put up afterwards, but that's just me.

    • Seems like you should be using official zoning maps from the city for something like this...

      Hell no! Nobody else was looking at the zoning maps. The number on the street, mailbox, etc., is more likely the source of info they used to start with. Grabbing a city map, which was updated to show news housing numbers, possibly years before the post office and homeowners have updated their own information, is a more likely recipe for disaster than what happened here.

    • by jbengt ( 874751 )
      That won't work, either. NY city won a case against a developer who relied on their zoning map to start construction on a building several stories high. Even though they had a permit, and the zoning map said it could be that high, someone noticed that the steel skeleton was getting higher than allowed by the actual zoning ordinance (as opposed to the map) so the city made them dismantle a story or two.
  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:21PM (#51778589)
    How hard would it be to go to the nearest intersection and make sure you're on the right street, and double check the street address?

    I think the (former) homeowners should get to stay in "not a big deal"'s house until new houses are built. "Not a big deal" can live in a tent on the construction site.
    • by twotacocombo ( 1529393 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:34PM (#51778675)

      How hard would it be to go to the nearest intersection and make sure you're on the right street, and double check the street address?

      According to Google maps, Cousteau turns into Calypso, and street view verifies this. The streets form a loop, and there is only one set of signs in that area, in a non-intersection corner where one street name arbitrarily turns into the other. Due to the tornado, this sign pole may not even currently exist. I can completely see where the confusion lies with this situation. While the demo crew are at fault for lack of due diligence, who's the fucking imbecile at the city planning office that approved the same exact street number for two houses within spitting distance of each other on what is essentially the same street?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Close to where I live, there's a street which starts in one town and runs into another town. Street name does not change at the town border. #1 is neighbours with... #1. Those people get each other's mail and visitors all the time. Nobody saw that one coming.

        • Man... I would have to imagine that they are in different zip codes, otherwise that is essentially 2 identical addresses as far as mailing systems are concerned.

      • There's brain dead mouth breathers working in the planning department of every city. I remember going to a party of a hot girl I met at uni once. She told me she lived in 65 somethingorother street. Anyway I got to the street and drove all the way to the end and it only went up to 40. I was pretty pissed to get blown off like that.

        Turns out after a few minutes of swearing at the situation that the street continued with the same name and continuous numbering one block further down. Two different streets in t

        • by starblazer ( 49187 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @05:09PM (#51778883) Homepage

          It should be a requirement for any developer, house builder, or city planning department to be a delivery person for at least 6 months. You will see the end of stupid addressing and small, hard to make out numbers REAL quick.

          This rant brought to you by someone who has also been mistaken as Mr. Amazon.com man this past winter.

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            Or an ambulance driver. At least with deliveries, when they screw up, the only thing cold is your pizza.

        • There's brain dead mouth breathers working in the planning department of every city.... Two different streets in the same suburb with the same name.

          I work in the San Fernando Valley, which is in the northern reaches of Los Angeles city. We've got some streets here that are broken into 30 different parts, and all have the same name because they run roughly in a line. Check out Lurline Ave, Superior St, or Mayall St for shits and giggles.

          • by idji ( 984038 )
            Have a look at Cortez Street here. It has a CANYON in the middle of it!! Typical for this area.
            Cortez Street [google.com]
          • by sconeu ( 64226 )

            Don't forget the mess at Corbin & Nordhoff where we have Nordhoff St, Nordhoff Pl, and Nordhoff Way.

            • Most every numbered street (mostly Avenues, it seems) in Phoenix has a corresponding way, place, and circle. Add in the complimentary North for South, East for West, and it's logical but sometimes a bit confusing.

        • by jnork ( 1307843 )

          The house we ended up buying in Wyndmoor, PA was on a street like that. Took us half an hour to find it the first time because not only were there two discontinuities, but at one point the street turned and intersected with the main street. I spotted the correct street name while driving around and quite naturally turned onto it... and got completely sidetracked. At least these days a decent GPS will make that less likely to happen.

          On a different but related note, the neighborhood I grew up in had the house

        • This is VERY common in the Phoenix area. Camelback Drive goes from west of the city center through the Biltmore district (very nice) all the way into the Salt River Reservation (not so nice to us gringos, a nice place to live if you live there). It's interrupted for more than a half mile in some places. You have to pay attention to Google Maps.

          Now, Siri will send you uphill sometimes when there is. no. hill. But that's entertainment.

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          Sometimes history gets in the way of sense. Around where I live there are at least three intermittent streets, and not too far away there's a street called "street of the fea" (in Spanish) because it jumps around so much. It goes jumping around for about 30 miles, but there's no one connected section that's very long. It must be over 100 years old with that name in that many different places, and it must have been quite jumpy even then. And I've no idea when it was originally created or why, but I'm gue

        • Every city has those.

          In Ottawa there is St. Laurent Blvd which if you keep going straight it turns into Russell Road. If you want to stay on St. Laurent you actually have to make a right turn at a light. Then there is Somerset which turns into Wellington which turns into Richmond which turns into Robertson but you can stay on Richmond if you turn left (though they call it Old Richmond Road).

          It's just how all the old villages grew together. They didn't rename the roads they connected at the time because the

      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @05:07PM (#51778869) Homepage Journal

        I think you're correct, which is why in my neck of the woods you can't just roll up to a house, say, "this looks like it", and start tearing it down. You need to get a permit.

        The permit application requires a photo of the house you intend to take down. You have to prove you know what you're doing, e.g., that you've had the utilities, especially gas turned off. You have to have a pest control company eradicate any rats nesting in the structure that might move onto adjacent properties. You've got to notify the police and fire department well in advance and if they determine there is a public risk or nuisance you've got to pay for a police and/or fire detail. Then you've got to notify all the abutters by certified ail and post a demolition notice on the actual structure to be demolished seven days in advance.

        Yeah, it's a lot of rigamarole, and I'm sure people in much of the rest of the country can't imagine living under that much regulation. On the other hand, we can't imagine having our house demolished by mistake. And somehow developers still manage to make a living, so I don't think it's too much to ask..

        • Yeah, it's a lot of rigamarole

          No, actually it all sounds quite reasonable.

          There SHOULD be strong protections in place before you start driving around and tearing down homes.

          A professional demo company shouldn't have any issues with what you posted.

        • Rat evictions?

          There is such a thing as too much. You need to stop feeding them, intentionally or not. Let them move in peace.

      • Yeah, I hated those types of addresses when I delivered for UPS (long before GPS). It always struck me how haphazard city planners could be.

        Another fun one is the N/S or E/W street that is segmented into many non-contiguous streets. You would have to guess at where the number breaks were based on the perpendicular roads. If you missed it, you would have to drive back out and all the way around to find where the next segment of the same street picked up again... real PITA.

        • by Megane ( 129182 )
          In San Antonio there are quite a few major streets that do this. In the northeast, just try tracing where Nacogdoches Road goes. A lot of these happen because of roads that had an intersection built where there used to be a curve, so now you have to make a turn at the intersection to stay on the same road.
  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:22PM (#51778595)
    and they demolished the neighbors.
  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:23PM (#51778601)

    It wasn't a Google Maps error, it was a "failure to identify the address error" by the crew. When you're doing something as destructive as tearing down a house, take a look at the street sign and make sure it matches the address on the work order. Don't blindly follow your GPS.

    Obligatory GPS scene from "The Office":

    https://youtu.be/n5lbShWEGQ0 [youtu.be]

    • Given they were in an area ripped apart by a tornado what makes you certain that there were still street signs in the area?

      Though I do agree the thought that someone is doing demolition based on a 3rd party map rather than the town's own official zoning map scares me.

      • Don't count on the official town map. There's an industrial-area roadway near where I used to live that ran for a few miles with no connection to other streets - except for the one on the official city street map that didn't actually exist.

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @05:04PM (#51778837) Journal

      A couple years back the wife and I were driving in NV, from Topaz Lake to Hawthorne, over a very dirt-track-across-the-desert, scraped every couple years (but still an official state route), road.

      As we approached Hawthorne, going through a pass in a range of hills, the nav system told us to turn left about a mile early and take a little road that went a couple car lengths and then off a cliff, maybe a couple hundred feet high.

      Seems there had been an old road there, back in the pony-express days, which had gone away nn a landslide long ago. We're guessing the USGS still showed it, the map company had included it in their database, and the nav system had computed it could save us a couple tenths of a mile by taking the shortcut.

      Fortunately we are aware of such pathologies, especially in remote areas, and were on the alert for it.

      • by Chas ( 5144 )

        ...and then off a cliff, maybe a couple hundred feet high.

        Damn...

        Shit like this is why you never, never NEVER trust your GPS and turn your head off.

        The worst GPS has ever done me is send me down a county route in a truck too big for it.
        Next worst was directing me a mile out of my way east from a light, make an elaborate U-turn, then come back up to a place that was directly kitty-corner WEST of the light.

        • by Megane ( 129182 )

          I take the time to find out where the hell I'm going before I ever leave. I get on Google Maps, find out where I'm going, then figure out the route myself. If the route is complicated enough (like 200 miles across west Texas, where the map looks like a graph from a CS textbook), I may even make a little skeleton map of various waypoints. I may also use the street view so that I know what a place looks like before I get there. I know the main routes around most of the big cities in the main DFW/Houston/San A

      • by Nethead ( 1563 )

        Yeah, back when I was doing DirecTV installs deep in rural Snohomish county Google maps would try to route me down fenced off high tension line inspection "roads." This was also the time back in 2006ish when there were a lot of new roads planned and on the map but never actually built because of the housing bust. I just went back to the paper map book from 2002.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:23PM (#51778603)

    Both the houses were white with shingle roofs.

  • Not a big deal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:27PM (#51778629) Homepage

    This is not the first time this has happened.

    I think by law, that whenever this happens, the company 's owner should have their house destroyed - along with all of their personal photos, keepsakes and see if they think it is a big deal.

    Basic rule should be an estimate value of the house x 3 - if they don't sue. x 6 if you have to sue. Because emotional losses are far bigger than the physical ones.

    • Re:Not a big deal? (Score:4, Informative)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:58PM (#51778801)

      Given that it was a house with floors ripped out, parts of the ceiling and roof missing completely open to the sky I'm going to assume that anything that was still in the house probably had zero value as a result and it really was not a big deal. Providing the house gets rebuilt. The demo guys may have even done them a favour. Large scale repairs are often harder and take longer than groundup rebuilds.

      But then everyone in this discussion seems to be making a lot of assumptions including TFA which claims a suit is likely because of what the CEO said instead of what the company has done.

    • the company 's owner should have their house destroyed - along with all of their personal photos, keepsakes and see if they think it is a big deal.

      Your flippant reaction is misplaced. I sincerely doubt there was anything of value left in that duplex:

      From TFA: "the tornado busted the house's windows, ripped the floor and tore away some part of the ceiling, leaving some portions exposed to the sky."

      Sound like a place you'd be leaving your family photos (unguarded while you're living elsewhere)?

      Of course if th

    • Yes, because 'an eye for an eye' style revenge on an innocent mistake is the "right thing to do". Nobody will be going to court to fix this, the relevant insurance companies will work that out between themselves on a more civilised manner.
      • Insurance company? Why do you think a fucktard who runs such a slack outfit bothers with things like insurance?

        I wouldn't be surprised if his business has zero assets (all the equipment & vehicles being leased from a totally separate company owned by his cat).

    • I think by law, that whenever this happens, the company 's owner should have their house destroyed - along with all of their personal photos, keepsakes and see if they think it is a big deal.

      What if the company owner implements an official policy is to triple check all paperwork, house numbers, road signs, knock on the neighbors' doors to confirm they've got the right street. And the error is made because an employee is lazy and decides to skip some of these checks?

      While it's fun to fantasize about rev

  • "Trust, but verify." The same thing could be said about Google Maps.
  • what next?
    using wikipedia to learn about economic and military condition of a country and its historical and cultural background, before invading? or to write academic papers that goes in to those decisions by people who used wikipedia to pass examinations?
    using twitter to allocate and channel emergency resources during emergency?
    etc etc

    would be funny if these things are not already happening.

    using a restricted (formal, as in twitter with its "trust & safety council" censorship, or informal as in langua

  • self driving cars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:49PM (#51778743) Journal
    I'll get modded down for this, but remember this is the same technology that's supposed to be giving us self-driving cars within the next five years.
    • There's a difference between driving a car and knowing where to go. This problem is the same whether it's a self-driving car or a demolition truck (well, the scale of the problem is different).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 )

        There's a difference between driving a car and knowing where to go.

        Currently, Google's self-driving car depends on creating a very detailed 3d map of the world. More detail here [ieee.org]. I don't like to link to Wired, but they got an exclusive interview [wired.com], and it confirms what I just wrote. So no, practically there isn't a difference.

        So for a self-driving car to work, there are two choices: either figure out how to make better maps, or create a much smarter car than the one they have now. It has to work a lot better than the Google maps currently does.

        • So for a self-driving car to work, there are two choices: either figure out how to make better maps, or create a much smarter car than the one they have now.

          Or, option 3, only self-drive in known areas. Yes, this will somewhat limit the vehicle's utility, but not very much, and it would know whether there's a potential problem as soon as you set the destination.

      • For clarity, here's the critical paragraph:

        the car isn’t just seeing and figuring out the world as it drives along. It’s basing its actions on vast amounts of data the Google Self-Driving Car Project has already compiled about every road it travels. Before the car drives itself into new territory, the project team collects detailed information on permanent features: lane markers, the precise location of the curbs, the height of traffic lights, local speed limits, and so forth.

    • Yes, the technology took them to the wrong address but it didn't knock the house down. So a self driving car takes you to the wrong house. It's not that big of a deal. Those things will happen and there will be methods for the maps to be corrected. Emergency vehicles are still going to have a person driving, or at lease an over-ride system, so peoples lives won't be put at risk.

      • Yes, the technology took them to the wrong address but it didn't knock the house down. So a self driving car takes you to the wrong house.

        You clearly haven't looked much at the technology for self-driving cars. The maps need to be so detailed, that if the map is wrong, it could drive off the street completely. Seriously go educate yourself before commenting again, you moron.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:54PM (#51778785) Homepage

    "we have insurance to cover the fuck ups our crew does all the time. and those people will never get their stuff back..."

  • In his version that he observed, the locals who sit in the pub and drink all day got a contract. They went out to tear down a porch after having one more drink. They came back to his pub shaking and needing another drink talking about tearing down the wrong porch. All I can think is that his neighbor will be complaining about the guys who didn't tear down his and asking who his neighbor got to tear down his.
  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @04:59PM (#51778805)

    From TFS: "The demolition company's CEO dismissed the incident as 'not a big deal.'" In what sense is tearing down the wrong house not a big deal?

    • by Gordo_1 ( 256312 )

      I'm sure as the demolition company CEO, he's in a good position to determine what a big deal is. We should just trust him at his word. /s

    • by Lisias ( 447563 )

      From TFS: "The demolition company's CEO dismissed the incident as 'not a big deal.'" In what sense is tearing down the wrong house not a big deal?

      Demolishing the wrong 20 stories building, as did by his predecessor.

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      There's something particularly scary about a CEO saying something like this.

      Not a CEO *feeling* that way - that's a given - but being so clueless about the PR situation as to say it out loud.

    • He believes that his insurance company is going to cover the cost?

  • Because it was a Google Maps error, not an Apple Maps error.

  • Obligitory Dilbert (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @05:20PM (#51778961) Homepage
  • How did the wrecking crew do anything?!?

    Isn't Tommy Tedesco dead?

  • A company has done something dumb to you. Would you rather:
    1) complain to the press so everyone knows that the company makes mistakes
    2) refrain from talking to the press and then negotiate a large $ settlement with which to fix the actual problem

    You are the CEO of a company that did something dumb, should you:
    1) comment to the press that this is not an extraordinary situation because you have a process in place to respond to this kind of request in due course, so that people will be impressed with how well

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