A bug in Google Places Autocomplete predictions

Written by on June 26, 2014, 1:52 am

I needed to document a bug I found with the Google Places Autocomplete API and here seemed as good a place as any. If you are from Google and you plan to fix this, I would love to hear from you.

Update: Very similar problem with typing "Pitt St" in the city. Getting a location in Parramatta.

If you make an Autocomplete request, from the following location (just near Circular Quay in Sydney) for the search string "Brid" you will be presented with a list of predictions that make perfect sense:

I am making the request with these parameters:

ParamValueExplantation
location-33.862408,151.210848Corner of Loftus and Custom House Lane
radius30000Only interested in locations 30km from your location
inputbridThe begning of "Bridge St"
countryAUJust results in Australia please

You can see the JSON result I get back from the request or try it yourself here (assuming you have an API key). The first result in the list of predictions is this one:

FieldValue
descriptionBridge Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
referenceCmRfAAAAs3Qot0vFrtKUIgWa7pCD5...

I have linked the reference id in the table to the corresponding Google Places Details Request. This reference id describes Bridge St in the Sydney CBD, just up the road from the request location, so all good so far.

The problem raises its head when we try the same request on the other side of Darling Harbour in Pyrmont (is also reproducable a few blocks away in the CBD):

I am making the request with the same parameters as before, except for my location:

ParamValueExplantation
location-33.865606,151.196359Just across the park from Google in Pyrmont

I get back this JSON result. You can try it yourself here (again you need an API key). This time my results look suspiciously like the first. Importantly the first entry has the same description, "Bridge Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia". I am going to show this description to my unsuspecting user.

FieldValue
descriptionBridge Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
referenceCmRfAAAAWcjNUI81JLFvS53mlF51Q...

Unfortunately this id refers to Bridge St in Windsor NSW, 55km away. Now I am sure Bridge St in Windsor is lovely this time of year and certainly worth visiting, but perhaps a better prediction for the "Bridge St" the user is looking for is the one that is just 3km away.

It would be awesome if this particular case (and perhaps any like it) were fixed and would also be good if the place description reflected the locality better. If "Bridge Street, Windsor, New South Wales" were returned for the second case, then my users would be far less inclined to click on it thinking it is Bridge St in the City.

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