Driver Frozen to Death in -50C Weather After Taking Shorter Google Maps Route

The car's radiator was damaged and the two ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere 1 photo
Photo: East 2 West News via
While navigation apps typically come in very handy when trying to reach a certain destination faster, nobody should ever take everything for granted, as the tiniest software error can sometimes have terrible consequences.
A recent example in this regard is the case of 18-year-old friends Sergey Ustinov and Vladislav Istomin, who were both traveling in a passenger car on Russia’s Kolyma Highway, also known as the Road of Bones.

With a length of 2,031 km (1,262 mi), the highway was built during the Soviet Union’s Stalinist era, and it’s believed over 250,000 people died during the construction phase.

A report citing local media indicates the driver followed a shorter route suggested by Google Maps, only to be sent to a snow-covered road that was abandoned during the 1970s. A wooden spike damaged the radiator of their Toyota Chaser, with the two eventually becoming stranded in an area with no cellular signal, thus not being able to call for help.

The teenagers tried to survive the -50C (-58F) weather with the help of a small fire, but the lack of warm clothes proved fatal in the Siberian winter. At one point, they managed to burn a tire, but local emergency services say there’s a chance the pair failed to remove the other wheels due to the brutal weather conditions.

The driver was found frozen solid in the car by a police officer and two locals who started the search when the two went missing. Istomin is still alive, though he’s now in critical condition due to acute hypothermia.

The temperature in the region drops to -57C (-70F) during the night, locals say.

According to reports, Yandex Maps, a Russia-based service offered as an alternative to Google Maps, provides drivers with the correct route between Yakutsk and Magadan, whereas Google’s application originally indicated a shorter route via Tomtor. In the meantime, however, Google Maps has already been updated to display the same route as Yandex Maps, thus avoiding sending drivers to the abandoned road.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
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Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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