How Apple Maps became "life threatening"

Faulty maps potentially fatal.

The awfulness of Apple Maps (misplaced parks/flighty buildings/squelched bridges) just got worse, after it lead a number of Australian drivers to the middle of the desert, potentially putting their lives in danger. According to police, the drivers were stranded there for a day without food and water.

It turns out that the maps had been misdirecting people trying to get to the Victorian city of Mildura to somewhere in Murray Sunset National Park.

"Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the Park and temperatures can reach as high as 46 degrees, making this a potentially life threatening issue," Victoria Police said in a press release. "Some of the motorists located by police have been stranded for up to 24 hours without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception."

Australian police have warned motorists to be extremely careful when using the maps. Here's the Guardian:

Getting lost in the park around Mildura is potentially deadly: "There's no water, and you can get bogged down in the sand," explained Toby Prime, a reporter on the local Sunraysia Daily. "Temperatures go up to 46 degrees and there's no water." People might also have to walk some distance in the heat to get phone reception. Summer is beginning in Australia, and temperatures are soaring.

One man following the map on his phone had driven into the park at 6pm, three hours before it got dark, and then realised that he was nowhere near Mildura – but that to continue driving could get him stuck because of the quantity of sand on and around the road. "The phone says Mildura is in the middle of the national park," Prime explained. The man was only rescued after he had been in the park for 24 hours.

Apple Maps send Australians into the desert. Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.