There are calls in the press today for more online mapping standards after the tragic disappearance of CNET Senior Editor James Kim. Kim was on a family vacation last week in Oregon when he took a little-used logging road in a futile effort to find a shortcut to the Oregon coast. Kim’s family was rescued. But Kim, who ventured away from the car to seek help, is still missing.
My friend and mentor Gary Arlen reports that one TV newscast blamed Google Maps, saying that MapQuest is “better” for small country roads with warnings of which roads not to use. I had a similar experience with Google Maps this summer. But no one really knows which map service Kim was using at this point and of course, it doesn’t matter.
The coda to The LA Times coverage this morning said it all. “I don’t understand why MapQuest and Google put those so called ‘short cuts’ on the maps,” a woman named Laurie, who said she lives in the area, wrote to CNET. “I am sure that a human does not drive on these roads before they put them on the Web. I hope that can change. Please find James alive.”
Update: James Kim’s body has been found . It appears that Kim did not use either Google or MapQuest. This from CNN’s report on Kim’s tragic death (via Pat Marshall): “Officers said the couple used a map to choose the road they were on. “They got the map out a regular highway map that showed the route,” Anderson said.
However, it wasn’t clear whose map the couple used. The 2005-2007 state highway map distributed by the Oregon Department of Transportation has a warning in red print, inside a red box: “This route closed in winter.” A Rand-McNally map did not have a similar warning.”