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Australian authorities blame Apple Maps for inaccuracies in brushfire warning app

post #1 of 30
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Officials in Victoria, Australia are pointing at Apple's much-maligned Maps App for causing dangerous inaccuracies in a bushfire information app, saying that problems with the mapping service make it difficult to determine exactly where fires are when alarms are received.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Country Fire Authority in Victoria is blaming Apple's mapping data for errors in its own FireReady bushfire information app. Officials say that they were forced to rely on Apple Maps for FireReady, which is available on the iPhone and the iPad.

Aussie Mapping


"Users report that towns are located on their maps at the centre of the district rather than on the actual township itself," said one CFA spokesperson. Another official added that CFA has already received numerous complaints regarding errors in the FireReady app.

"This makes it very difficult to quickly determine the location of fires once alarm calls are being received," the spokesman said. "This creates potentially dangerous situations and delays to activate phone trees if required."

According to CFA, attempts to contact Apple have been met with suggestions to report inaccuracies through a function provided in the Apple Maps app. CFA has urged people not to rely solely on one source for emergency information and pointed users to its website, which relies on Google Maps.

Apple's Maps app has been a sore point for the company since its introduction with the release of iOS 6. Its occasionally incomplete or inaccurate data has led officials in Australia to advise against relying on it in the past. The Cupertino tech giant's troubles in the mapping sector have been cause for light ribbing from Google, which Apple dropped as a mapping solution for Apple Maps.
post #2 of 30

Use the Google Maps app instead. Problem solved.

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post #3 of 30
Of course--and if they used Google or something else, there would be errors too. Of course, the media has us focused on them right now.

Meanwhile the police are warning people that Google's own maps in Australia are dangerous. It's almost as though no map system is perfect, but with an Apple logo, the errors are suddenly worth caring about 1tongue.gif

I'd love to see some data (per country, since they vary so much) on Google errors vs. Apple ( Waze & TomTom) errors. Data. NOT anecdotes and folk wisdom. What kinds of errors, how many, how serious, how often?

The only data I've actually seen, for Canada and China, has been in Apple's favor. (In Canada, Google returns results instead of nothing more of the time... making you think it "knows more places" than Apple... but Google's results are too often miles off! Google's results are useless so often that Apple is actually the one returning more results that are correct. Too many of Google's results are useless--if not dangerous--errors. For instance, I'd rather get 5 truly accurate hits out of 10, than 9 hits of which 7 are wrong. You'd almost think Apple values quality while Google values keeping you on their site as long as possible no matter what the reason...)

So what's the reality? Is Google's info perfect? I've personally run into locations in the US that Google couldn't find and Apple could. Major public facilities, no less. I'm sure the reverse is true too.

Even $2000 GPS systems built into cars have errors.

But this is for sure: Apple does NOT require app makers to use their maps. I have tons of apps that use other map sources: Navigon MyRegion, MotionX GPS, Waze, MapQuest, WeatherBug, Dark Sky, Google Earth, and of course, Google Maps.

"Officials say that they were forced to rely on Apple Maps for FireReady" Hmmm... not by Apple, they weren't. Apple maps certainly integrate into the OS nicely, but I don't see how that's needed here. It's not like people are going to want URLs clicked on the web to launch FireReady for driving directions, or something.

And if something is life and death, using ANY remote Internet data service is risky and needs a disclaimer. That's life.
Edited by nagromme - 2/12/13 at 5:30pm
post #4 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post

Use the Google Maps app instead. Problem solved.

 

Um google maps had the same issue of sending people to a nature reserve in australia just like apples map app, it was publicized in australia right after the first apple maps incident.  Google maps has a lot of errors too it just does not get the exposure apple does.  I have experience a lot of those errors in google maps myself over the years.

 

Heres a link to googles map problems in australia as reported by there police:  http://pocketnow.com/2012/12/15/australian-police-warns-google-maps

 

Turns out that both google and apple relied on the same local mapping firm for there map systems in that area of australia.  So both had the same issue.

post #5 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"Users report that towns are located on their maps at the centre of the district rather than on the actual township itself," said one CFA spokesperson. Another official added that CFA has already received numerous complaints regarding errors in the FireReady app.

"This makes it very difficult to quickly determine the location of fires once alarm calls are being received," the spokesman said. "This creates potentially dangerous situations and delays to activate phone trees if required."

According to CFA, attempts to contact Apple have been met with suggestions to report inaccuracies through a function provided in the Apple Maps app. CFA has urged people not to rely solely on one source for emergency information and pointed users to its website, which relies on Google Maps.
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post #6 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post
Officials say that they were forced to rely on Apple Maps for FireReady,

Why do they say they were "forced" to use Apple maps?

Why didn't they simply use a different map.
There are plenty of apps with non-Apple map data (that I wish I could use Apple maps with).

post #7 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_CA View Post

Why do they say they were "forced" to use Apple maps?

Why didn't they simply use a different map.
There are plenty of apps with non-Apple map data (that I wish I could use Apple maps with).

 

Let's put it this way... the number of things people THINK Apple exerts control over is far smaller than the number of things they actually DO exert control over.

post #8 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

I'd love to see some data (per country, since they vary so much) on Google errors vs. Apple ( Waze & TomTom) errors. Data. NOT anecdotes and folk wisdom. What kinds of errors, how many, how serious, how often?

The only data I've actually seen, for Canada and China, has been in Apple's favor. (In Canada, Google returns results instead of nothing more of the time... making you think it "knows more places" than Apple... but Google's results are too often miles off! Google's results are useless so often that Apple is actually the one returning more results that are correct. Too many of Google's results are useless--if not dangerous--errors. For instance, I'd rather get 5 truly accurate hits out of 10, than 9 hits of which 7 are wrong. You'd almost think Apple values quality while Google values keeping you on their site as long as possible no matter what the reason...).

http://blog.crowdflower.com/2012/12/the-accuracy-of-apple-maps-listings-reality-check/

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2012/11/07/2003547070

 

There's really very little in the way of direct head-to-head comparison, with CrowdFlower the best effort to date IMO. It's certainly not (yet?) comprehensive enough for any definitive "who's most accurate" tho.

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post #9 of 30
Do it the old fashioned way. Look for smoke you bumbling idiots.
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post #10 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

But this is for sure: Apple does NOT require app makers to use their maps. I have tons of apps that use other map sources: Navigon MyRegion, MotionX GPS, Waze, MapQuest, WeatherBug, Dark Sky, Google Earth, and of course, Google Maps.
 

 

Yep. There are APIs for all sorts of services. They weren't forced to use iOS maps. They were either too lazy or too cheap to use anything else. Knowing iOS maps isn't perfect. 

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post #11 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

http://blog.crowdflower.com/2012/12/the-accuracy-of-apple-maps-listings-reality-check/

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2012/11/07/2003547070

 

There's really very little in the way of direct head-to-head comparison, with CrowdFlower the best effort to date IMO. It's certainly not (yet?) comprehensive enough for any definitive "who's most accurate" tho.

True, but that's the kind of data that interests me all the same. Thanks for the links. That data makes BOTH maps sound better than I'd have expected... in the US, that is!

 

There are also at least two categories of accuracy we should look at:

 

1. Business listings. Yelp is OK in the US, but that probably is the weakest link in Apple Maps.

 

2. Street/number address accuracy. (Like following directions from a web link, or searching for a residence.)

 

My own informal data: I keep Google Maps installed, and track how many times I have to launch it because Apple couldn't find where I wanted to go. (Before Google's app was out, I had Navigon as a fallback.) So far: zero times! But I'm glad to have the transit function anyway. (I'm in a medium US city.)

 

The error I see the most: Apple sometimes pins a business where its estimated street address is, NOT right on the building itself. Generally within a stone's throw, but not quite right. But I've seen that on Google too. I try to be a good citizen and move the pin!

 

The second pet peeve: black and white aerial photos. Not where I am, but I see it as I explore the globe. (I know Apple has been improving that, just as they've been expanding FlyOver/3D buildings.)

 

As the same time, I have a HUGE pet peeve with Google: it won't take my contact's addresses into account when searching!  In Apple Maps, I can search for "Melissa"--not so with Google/Android. And I often do that, not because I forget where my friends live (or business contacts work) but because I'm using it as the start or end of a navigation route to/from some other place.


Edited by nagromme - 2/12/13 at 6:49pm
post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post

Use the Google Maps app instead. Problem solved.

Google Maps has been reported by the Australian Government to also have errors in their data as well, so your statement is not a very good one.  The problem stems from WHOM they get their data from since they get fed the information from a variety of sources depending on the type of data and the area in question.

post #13 of 30

I would rely on this type of information from a Government or non-profit source who's sole responsibility is to report this information.  They should be feeding these Mapping programs with updates to Fires and other similar information since they are the ones that are in direct communication with the people handling emergency conditions.

You want to know about Fires, contact the Fire Dept.  You want to know about earthquakes, contact the local Geological Studies, etc.  They should be offering this information freely to all mapping programs.

post #14 of 30
i wonder where the nokia/earthmine maps would get you ...
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post #15 of 30

Go outside.  Look.  Go back in.  Go outside again.  Look.  Go back in.  Go outside........

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post #16 of 30
Judging by the screenshot, this is a custom app that uses the maps API. Thus, on iOS 6, the content would be 'forced' to use Apple Maps data.
post #17 of 30

I like the Apple Map App, better than Google's iOS App. With that said, Apple's problem, at least in the US, isn't with road locations. The problem is with Point of Interest data. Apple seems to rely mostly on Yelp, which often times places businesses in the wrong place. Seems Apple doesn't own that data, it likely is going to have a hard time making corrections. 

post #18 of 30
I live in a fairly small town (75000 people) in the north of Sweden (1000 km from the capital) and I know that we are not priority 1 for Apple....
Still I think that much of the map data is just fine, or more than fine.

Roads etc. are mostly at least as correct as Googles version, so turn-by-turn-navigation is just fine.
Satellite imaagery is a bit spotty (such as getting black and white photos for many places outside, but close to, the city), which I find strange since this kind of data is readily available to license for basically anyone.

The POI database is so-so. Many things are there, but some are not and quite a few are in the wrong place. It is quite annoying though that it's not possible to search for stuff based on type, that is, if I type "bensinstation" ("gas station" in Swedish) the nearest one seems to be 40-50 km away which of course is not true. The reason seems to be that the search just checks for names of places. So if I write "Shell" for instance it finds a Shell station in the city.

The worst error is that the local hospital has the wrong address, which puts it about 20 km away from it's true location, which of course is bad if there is an emergency.
The address is correct in yelp though, so....
Anyway, they have made some corrections since iOS 6 was released, for instance placing the city in the correct location, so I am hopeful.
post #19 of 30
The problem is, fundamentally, that Apple has unilateraly switched the back end without offering an option to keep Maps.
I don't think they could have done otherwise, but there was a communication issue here. I believe a simple "apology" along the lines of "for business reasons, we have to change the backend, that's what's going to happen in XXX months" would have been OK. "Hey, now you're using a beta system instead of the proven Google Maps in your critical apps" was not OK.

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post #20 of 30
It's ridiculous, even if there are mistakes, no one is forcing them to use it. I don't see why they make such a big deal out of it.
post #21 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClemyNX View Post

It's ridiculous, even if there are mistakes, no one is forcing them to use it. I don't see why they make such a big deal out of it.

Aren't they just trying to warn users that if they're reporting a brush fire location (it's a big deal) they may not be accurate if they're doing so with Apple Maps? They suggest going straight to their website, which uses Google mapping to report them rather than via iOS app. The takeaway is that they've found more problems with Apple maps than Google's at least in their fire district.

 

Why would that be ridiculous to warn those working and/or living in those areas? If the fire is reported to be miles away from it's actual location then phone calls to residents in danger might be delayed enough that there's not time to calmly and properly plan an evacuation. Sounds potentially serious to me if you live there.

 

It doesn't mean that Google Map accuracy is better than Apple's overall. It only has to do with that district AFAIK, and perhaps only when dealing with off-road or remote locations. Within metro areas there might be no significant differences. Maybe Apple's maps are even better. Or perhaps not.


Edited by Gatorguy - 2/13/13 at 5:09am
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post #22 of 30
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Originally Posted by lightknight View Post

The problem is, fundamentally, that Apple has unilateraly switched the back end without offering an option to keep Maps.
I don't think they could have done otherwise, but there was a communication issue here. I believe a simple "apology" along the lines of "for business reasons, we have to change the backend, that's what's going to happen in XXX months" would have been OK. "Hey, now you're using a beta system instead of the proven Google Maps in your critical apps" was not OK.

There are two problems with your logic:

1. There's still no evidence that Apple Maps is any worse than Google Maps. There are lots of anecdotes, but there are also anecdotes that Google Maps is worse than Apple Maps. The few people who have tried to do significant comparisons have generally found that Apple Maps is at least as good.

2. In Australia, it appears that Apple Maps and Google Maps use the same source of data - so they both seem to have the same mistakes. Even if they're using different data sets, the police issued the same warning for Google Maps, so sticking with Google would not have prevented this problem.


Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that mapping is not yet perfect. There are errors in every system. My car's GPS tried to take me across Lake Ontario once. Another time, it tried to route me through California to go from Syracuse to Toronto. People need to use common sense when using a GPS system. And systems like the one discussed in this article can not expect perfection. Maybe in another 5-10 years. But it's not an Apple problem. Nor is it a Google problem. It's simply an immature market.
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post #23 of 30
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Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Another time, it tried to route me through California to go from Syracuse to Toronto.

I wanted to see what route to take if I was going to cycle to Denmark. Yes, Denmark, I'm a cyclist. But won't be relying on GoogleMaps:
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post #24 of 30
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Originally Posted by jragosta View Post
The few people who have tried to do significant comparisons have generally found that Apple Maps is at least as good.
 

1confused.gif

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post #25 of 30
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post
Do it the old fashioned way. Look for smoke you bumbling idiots.

 

Too much work.

 

How long before an entire generation of human beings exists whose eyes cannot focus on any distance further than they hold their iDevices?


Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post
1confused.gif

 

Is this a misunderstanding of his sentence or a request for source data?

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post #26 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

I wanted to see what route to take if I was going to cycle to Denmark. Yes, Denmark, I'm a cyclist. But won't be relying on GoogleMaps:

That's not possible. Everyone knows that only Apple Maps has errors. /s
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post #27 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post


I wanted to see what route to take if I was going to cycle to Denmark. Yes, Denmark, I'm a cyclist. But won't be relying on GoogleMaps:

What were the directions given? I'm going to guess that Google gave the fastest route as biking to the nearest ferry taking you to Denmark, then continuing by bike. There may not be an error per-se. But just a guess. . .

 

EDIT: Yup. It wasn't a mistake at all. The route includes a ferry ride. 

 

Bicycling directions to Aarhus, Denmark 3Dtransparent.png
 
 
This route includes a ferry.
This route crosses through United Kingdom.

Google's beta bicycle directions don't yet allow you to customize the route and avoid the ferry by adding an intermediate stop as far as I can see. Walking directions avoid the ferry, as does auto and bus routing. I would imagine the bike directions are in fact the fastest way to get from A to B. What route did Apple maps offer you for your bicycle trip?


Edited by Gatorguy - 2/13/13 at 2:41pm
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post #28 of 30
Bushfire*
post #29 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

What route did Apple maps offer you for your bicycle trip?

I merely entered The Hague and Skanerborg. I hit enter. It displays the (highway) route. I see I didn't choose bicycle so I tapped that. Google displays above screendump. I'm left in awe.
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post #30 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

 What route did Apple maps offer you for your bicycle trip?

He also neglected to inform us whether he had requested a Trip-Tic from AAA HQ in Washington DC.

 

Cheers

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