Why Does Modern Tech Try to Route Freeways Through Neighborhood Streets?

Since the introduction of new apps to help drivers find better routes, there’s been a persistent problem of freeways routing through neighborhood streets all over America, from NY to LA.

  • Jun 16, 2017 Slate: Suburbs Finally Figured Out a Way to Get Rid of Pesky Drivers on Waze Shortcuts
  • Dec 24, 2017 NYT: Navigation Apps Are Turning Quiet Neighborhoods Into Traffic Nightmares
  • Dec 26, 2017 NYMag: Waze Traffic Forces New Jersey Town to Shut Down Its Roads
  • Sep 20, 2018 WUSA9: Navigation apps flood neighborhood with traffic and VDOT proposes Beltway ramp shutdown
  • Aug 20, 2019 LAMag: Waze Hijacked L.A. in the Name of Convenience. Can Anyone Put the Genie Back in the Bottle?

I’ve spoken about this many times in my AI ethics presentations as a stupid flaw that should be easy to fix.

Meanwhile, news from Cloudflare is that the Internet is exhibiting the same flawed logic

Cloudflare traced the problem to a regional ISP in Pennsylvania that accidentally advertised to the rest of the internet that the best available routes to Cloudflare were through their small network. This caused a massive volume of global traffic to the ISP, which overwhelmed their limited capacity and so halted Cloudfare’s access to the rest of the internet. As Cloudflare remarked, it was the internet equivalent of routing an entire freeway through a neighbourhood street.

Funny thing, historically speaking, is that the Internet is based on transportation logistics. The first hackers were literally people who disobeyed road conventions and safety and went their own way for selfish reasons.

The answer for why a regional ISP in Pennsylvania wanted all the traffic to flow through their neighborhood is…still being discussed. Some speculate it was a test. Someone somewhere always is thinking about how to do Internet-scale attacks on confidentiality, integrity and/or availability.

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