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The peculiar case of the Google Maps ghost

Updated Sep 21st, 2021 7:50AM EDT
Google Maps Ghost
Image: blackzheep/Adobe

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People love ghosts, as evidenced by the endless number of ghost hunting shows on TV. But what about digital ghosts that many people can experience at the same time? That’s apparently what happened to Google Maps users who witnessed an unexpected change of voice during navigation. A man with a slight Indian accent seems to randomly replace whatever default voice you might have set in Google Maps. Some of the users who encountered the ghost detailed the puzzling software bug on social media.

It’s unclear what caused the bug, but people took to Twitter and Reddit to detail their unexpected Google Maps navigation experiences.

“I use the English voice, and it’s normally a woman’s voice,” a Reddit user explained earlier this week. “On my trip home today, it was mostly the woman voice, then suddenly for one instruction, it talked in what sounded like a deep man’s voice with a slight Indian accent.”

The person said it happened again since posting the initial message. It turns out others have experienced the same error. “[Oh my God,] I thought it was just me, I got so weirded out. [I] was worried I got hacked somehow,” a different user said. They wondered whether someone hacked Google Maps.

The Google Maps ghost voice

The issue doesn’t appear to be widespread, as the Reddit post only had a few comments and didn’t go viral. But others took to other places to complain, including Twitter, where they messaged the Google Maps team directly.

Google made a note of the matter. As seen above, Google responded that the team is “working on a fix” that should roll out soon. Google didn’t explain what caused the problem and where it tends to appear. It’s unclear if the ghost bug impacts a particular type of device or a certain version of the Google Maps app.

A Redditor responding to the thread above said they tried finding the random voice that takes over the navigation experience, replacing the default setting. They could not find it. Hence, the Google Maps ghost designation makes plenty of sense.

That’s to say you shouldn’t panic if Google Maps starts behaving erratically when it comes to voice directions. It’s just some sort of error that Google is fixing — or has already fixed.

If you find it annoying, you can try to restart the app or reinstall it. Alternatively, you can use a different navigation app until Google fixes the Maps ghost. iPhone already comes preloaded with Apple Maps, which offers an improved navigation experience compared to previous years. Then there’s always Waze as a great Maps alternative, and it’s available for both Android and iPhone.

As always, with software issues, make sure you update your apps to the latest version available. The most recent releases include bug fixes, and the same goes for Google Maps updates.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.