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Google Maps directed man to drive off collapsed bridge, lawsuit claims

Google has been accused of negligence after a man drove off a broken bridge while allegedly following directions on Google Maps.

Philip Paxson drowned after the Jeep Gladiator he was driving fell about 20 feet (6.1 meters) and landed upside down in a river in Hickory, North Carolina, about 60 miles northwest of Charlotte.

A lawsuit filed this week by Paxson’s family claims the crash in September 2022 happened because Google failed to update its Maps app with information about the bridge, which apparently collapsed nine years earlier.

It also alleges that Google Maps acknowledged a complaint about the dangerous route recommendation in 2020, but carried on suggesting it in directions.

Barricades were usually in place to stop drivers from reaching the bridge but had been removed after they were vandalized sometime before the fatal crash, according to a local news outlet. The North Carolina State Patrol said the bridge was not maintained by local or state officials, adding that the original developer’s company had dissolved, according to the Associated Press. Paxson’s family has also sued two other businesses and an individual with apparent links to the bridge.

Medical device salesman Paxson had been driving home through an unfamiliar neighborhood when Google Maps allegedly directed him to cross the damaged bridge.

“Unfamiliar with local roads, he relied on Google Maps, expecting it would safely direct him home to his wife and daughters,” lawyers for the family said in a statement.

It added: “Tragically, as he drove cautiously in the darkness and rain, he unsuspectingly followed Google’s outdated directions to what his family later learned for nearly a decade was called the ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’ crashing into Snow Creek, where he drowned.”

Alicia Paxson, Philip’s wife, told the Associated Press: “Our girls ask how and why their daddy died. I’m at a loss for words they can understand because, as an adult, I still can’t understand how those responsible for the GPS directions and the bridge could have acted with so little regard for human life.”

A Google spokesperson expressed deep sadness at the family’s loss and said the company’s goal is “to provide accurate routing information in Maps,” adding that it is reviewing the lawsuit.

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