BURLINGTON, Vt. — When Tara Guertin lent her Jeep to three friends from Connecticut who were doing some sight-seeing in Burlington, she did not expect the car to end up at the bottom of Lake Champlain.
Guertin said, they were following directions from Waze, a community-driven GPS navigation app now owned by Google.
Waze pairs turn-by-turn GPS directions with user reports of accidents, traffic jams and police traps. Users can also update roads and landmarks.
Waze users or "Wazers" can report accidents, traffic jams, speed and police traps, and, from the online map editor, can update roads among other things. Waze sends anonymous information, including users' speed and location, back to its database to improve the service as a whole.
Julie Mossler, a spokesperson for Google, said the company was glad to hear the passengers were all safe, but the company was unable to explain how the car ended up in the lake.
"It's impossible to comment here without seeing the user's driving file and we haven't received permission to do so- generally speaking, Waze maps are updated with millions of edits to adapt to real time road conditions daily, often making them the most accurate available," she said via email.
She added that the company encourages "drivers to keep their eyes on the road and use all environmental information available to them to make the best decisions as they drive."
The app directed the drivers to turn onto the boat launch near the Coast Guard station. It was dark and foggy, Guertin said, and by the time they realized what was happening, the car had slid 100 feet onto the lake. The three people in the car managed to climb out.
Guertin said she thought it was a fluke, but when she tried the app out after the car sank, she got the same results.
Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo confirmed Monday the drivers had not been charged or cited by his officers. According to the incident report, the driver told Officer Padric Hartnett he had a single beer at nearby Foam Brewery and willingly consented to field sobriety exercises.
Hartnett wrote that he did not believe the driver was intoxicated. The driver told police he was having trouble seeing because of the weather. There was a "heavy fog and slight rain" at the time of the incident, and the boat launch was poorly lit, according to Hartnett's report.
A salvage team removed the car from the water Monday. According to the police report, the car went into the lake on Jan. 12 and had been in the water for over a week when removed.
The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation had been notified of the car. The head of the department's lakes and ponds division was not available for comment Monday.
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A new feature on Waze app lets you record your own GPS directions. Buzz60's Djenane Beaulieu (@djenanebeaulieu) has more on this.