Apple taking Maps 'to the next level' in iOS 12

Posted:
in iPhone edited June 2018
Not content with the uneven coverage in Apple Maps since its 2012 launch, Apple on Friday revealed that it will debut limited first-party maps data in the next iOS 12 beta, expanding that coverage as time goes on.

First-party Apple Maps data


Next week's first-stage rollout will cover just San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area, expanding to northern California by the fall and the rest of the U.S. in the following year, the company told TechCrunch. To get the necessary data, the company has been doing first-party collection using iPhones and the Apple Maps vehicles that have been roaming cities around the world.

At some point every version of iOS will be able to see the new maps. Apple is also hoping to be quicker on the draw with road and construction changes, and make app graphics more visually detailed, depending on context. This may include enhanced foliage, pools, pedestrian paths, and ground cover.

The effort has reportedly been in progress for four years, with the ultimate goal of completely exorcizing third-party data. The hodge-podge of third-party sources Apple has used so far has sometimes been blamed for Maps' shortcomings.

"We wanted to take this to the next level," said Apple's senior VP of internet software and services, Eddy Cue. "We have been working on trying to create what we hope is going to be the best map app in the world, taking it to the next step. That is building all of our own map data from the ground up."

At the moment corrections and updates need to pass submission and validation, but Cue indicated that the company will soon be able to change anything in Maps in real-time and even more frequently.

Friday's report also exposed more information about Apple Maps vans, which have been on streets since 2015. Each one is equipped with GPS, eight cameras, and four LiDAR sensors, as well as a device attached to a rear wheel that ensures proper recording of distance and images. Inside is a Mac Pro bolted to the floor, in turn connected to an assortment of SSDs for storage and a dashboard-mounted iPad, where the actual map capture software runs.




Each driver is accompanied by an operator who makes sure the necessary roads are covered and images are collected properly. In addition to images, though, the vans are creating 3D point clouds.

After a completed run, data is saved to the SSDs, which are pulled out, packed into a case and delivered to an Apple data center where software is used to strip out private information such as faces and license plates. Both the vans and the data center have their own encryption keys.

Apple is also relying on its millions of iPhone customers to passively and actively improve data, but attempting to anonymize and dissect collection in a manner that preserves privacy.

"We specifically don't collect data, even from point A to point B," Cue claimed. "We collect data -- when we do it -- in an anonymous fashion, in subsections of the whole, so we couldn't even say that there is a person that went from point A to point B. We're collecting the segments of it. As you can imagine, that's always been a key part of doing this. Honestly, we don't think it buys us anything [to collect more]. We're not losing any features or capabilities by doing this."

To further improve content, iPhone and van data is being combined with high-resolution satellite images, and computer vision analysis to detect addresses, street signs, and points of interest. This is cross-referenced with public data, including construction projects from city planning departments. Point clouds and images are used to identify signs, lanes, and other objects, which can be assigned to different categories.

A special team at Apple is developing a toolkit that will be used by hundreds of human editors to further scrutinize street data. This includes correctly assigning 3D geometry to objects for Flyover, and adjusting the precise location of addresses so that they correspond with entrances.

"When we take you to a business and that business exists, we think the precision of where we're taking you to, from being in the right building," Cue noted. "When you look at places like San Francisco or big cities from that standpoint, you have addresses where the address name is a certain street, but really, the entrance in the building is on another street. They've done that because they want the better street name. Those are the kinds of things that our new Maps really is going to shine on. We're going to make sure that we're taking you to exactly the right place, not a place that might be really close by."

The executive added that people shouldn't expect to see a massive visual overhaul, at least in the near future.

"You're not going to see huge design changes on the maps. We don't want to combine those two things at the same time because it would cause a lot of confusion," he said.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 76
    No amount of 3rd party data is ever going to match Google unless someone starts and PoI database to rival it. Google can crawl the web for a first-pass and then get updates, something no one else is doing (Bing?).

    A simple example: There are about four Tim Horten's within two miles of my house. Maps knows only two of them. This is not good enough.
    kestralKidAKidBjgojcaj
  • Reply 2 of 76
    LukeCageLukeCage Posts: 166member
    This is very welcoming news, being able to change things on maps in real time should allow for a more dynamic app, especially when it comes to new buildings, roads, etc
    watto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 3 of 76
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,032member
    I hope we get a street-level view at some point. I don't use Google Maps but I do miss that feature.
    welshdogrepressthismatrix077netmagewatto_cobralamboaudi4[Deleted User]Alex1Njony0cornchip
  • Reply 4 of 76
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,580member
    It will be nirvana for GPS Map App users when you can create custom direction map on desktop/phone/tablet and send it to phone EXACTLY like created to use on phone. Currently, you can send source/destination to phone but not whole custom direction. Also, Google map app doesn't give shortest distance selection. Selection should be shortest,fastest,no-toll,etc.
    Soliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 76
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    OMG! 

    I saw one two days ago!  It was cruising along the Queens Road in Reading. I thought it was a fake because it had a sign on the side that said Apple Maps, and I thought all the mapping vans were plain white. Maybe it was one of the new ones they’re running themselves. 

    Anyne else in the UK seen one?
    Alex1N
  • Reply 6 of 76
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    No amount of 3rd party data is ever going to match Google unless someone starts and PoI database to rival it. Google can crawl the web for a first-pass and then get updates, something no one else is doing (Bing?).

    A simple example: There are about four Tim Horten's within two miles of my house. Maps knows only two of them. This is not good enough.

    Yes, they should close down and give the money back to the shareholders. 
    boogerman2000repressthisStrangeDaysJWSCfastasleepmatrix077netmagewatto_cobraAlex1Njony0
  • Reply 7 of 76
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,328member
    I actually think Apple Maps has become extremely solid and rely on it all the time, but this is pretty fucking awesome. Incredibly ambitious endeavour, but if anyone can do it, Apple can. Not relying on 3rd party providers and having all data in house will bring incredible advantages.
    StrangeDaysnetmagewatto_cobraNotsofastDrew354cornchip
  • Reply 8 of 76
    retrogustoretrogusto Posts: 900member
    Maps is great for some things, but sometimes they get the most basic things laughably wrong. They had the wrong location for the Rubin Museum in New York City (I reported it and they fixed it), and just now I remembered to tell them that the Apollo Theater, one of New York’s (and the country’s) most famous and historic music/performing arts venues, is not a movie theater. Yelp has it listed correctly, but it still shows up wrong in the app. There have been lots of examples like this. I’m sort of surprised that nobody ever bothered to go through a list of the most important cultural venues in New York just to make sure the data was accurate. 

    But I still use it over Google Maps if I don’t need recommendations for cycling, so I hope they are serious about an upgrade, and I hope they’ll add cycling data soon. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 76
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    The main issues with Google maps is privacy and design. They are rubbish when it comes to both.
    edited June 2018 matrix077watto_cobracornchip
  • Reply 10 of 76
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    Rayz2016 said:
    OMG! 

    I saw one two days ago!  It was cruising along the Queens Road in Reading. I thought it was a fake because it had a sign on the side that said Apple Maps, and I thought all the mapping vans were plain white. Maybe it was one of the new ones they’re running themselves. 

    Anyne else in the UK seen one?
    You can search online to see them. They've been using the writing on the exterior for quite a while.
    Rayz2016repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 76
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member

    slurpy said:
    I actually think Apple Maps has become extremely solid and rely on it all the time, but this is pretty fucking awesome. Incredibly ambitious endeavour, but if anyone can do it, Apple can. Not relying on 3rd party providers and having all data in house will bring incredible advantages.
    As ambitious as building a first-party, electric car and worldwide charge network? (which they are doing)
    edited June 2018
  • Reply 12 of 76
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    In my opinion, Apple Maps as fine as is.
  • Reply 13 of 76
    slprescottslprescott Posts: 764member
    Despite the ongoing bashers of Apple Maps...

    I just finished using Apple Maps to navigate through 6 European cities: Munich, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Venice, Innsbruck.  It worked perfectly, including Lane Guidance which is really helpful on unfamiliar roads.  I'm looking forward to the improved accuracy this article describes.

    edited June 2018 SolirepressthisJWSCfastasleepwatto_cobraDrew354Alex1Ncornchip
  • Reply 14 of 76
    I don't like Google Maps because of privacy issues. I mostly only use Apple Maps. But then, I visited a small city in Quebec, and Apple Maps basically pretended like it didn't exist. The satellite imagery was super blurry, and all in black and white. There were very few points of interest marked. 

    I bit the bullet and installed Google Maps, because I needed to find a place to eat breakfast with my kids. It blew my mind apart, to see how far ahead Google is than Apple. Considering the absolute poverty of Apple's data in this city, Google had street view of every street in the town. AND, it had 3D models of many major landmarks, such as the main cathedral. 

    I love Apple, and I am super glad to hear that they're still putting their shoulder behind the grindstone and are committed to improving Maps, because compared to Google, they have a very long way to go. Maybe that's not true in big cities like San Fran or New York, but in smaller places it is very much the case.
    netmagewatto_cobra[Deleted User]Alex1Ncornchip
  • Reply 15 of 76
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    nunzy said:
    In my opinion, Apple Maps as fine as is.
    Well, The only problem I had was when it took me to the pedestrian entrance of the local college, instead of the car park. 

    Not exactly a deal breaker, but I was mildly annoyed for about eight seconds. 
    edited June 2018 repressthisJWSCnunzymatrix077watto_cobralamboaudi4Alex1N
  • Reply 16 of 76
    command_fcommand_f Posts: 360member
    Apart from improving its still somewhat hit and miss accuracy, I see lack of a Streetview-style facility as Apple Maps' biggest drawback. This story hints that it might be coming which would be very good news. I hope Apple is dedicated to maintaining all its first-party data too or its value will fade away again.

    I do, however, remain sceptical that Apple will be able to match Google maps's search content and relevance without its own search engine. The coupling of the two is really powerful when it comes to returning relevant mapping suggestions. I can still sit here in the UK, search for a partial business or whatever name and get my second or third response as an address in the US. Much as I like the US, I don't expect to pop over the pond for such trivial needs  ;).
    repressthisirelandnetmagewatto_cobra[Deleted User]
  • Reply 17 of 76
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member

    Despite the ongoing bashers of Apple Maps...

    I just finished using Apple Maps to navigate through 6 European cities: Munich, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Venice, Innsbruck.  It worked perfectly, including Lane Guidance which is really helpful on unfamiliar roads.  I'm looking forward to the improved accuracy this article describes.

    The lane guidance is really handy.  

    And now it seems to know when I’m heading home, I get a nice proactive warning for heavy traffic. 
    matrix077watto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 18 of 76
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    What privacy issues are there with the iOS version of Google maps? 
  • Reply 19 of 76
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    greg uvan said:
    I don't like Google Maps because of privacy issues. I mostly only use Apple Maps. But then, I visited a small city in Quebec, and Apple Maps basically pretended like it didn't exist. The satellite imagery was super blurry, and all in black and white. There were very few points of interest marked. 

    I bit the bullet and installed Google Maps, because I needed to find a place to eat breakfast with my kids. It blew my mind apart, to see how far ahead Google is than Apple. Considering the absolute poverty of Apple's data in this city, Google had street view of every street in the town. AND, it had 3D models of many major landmarks, such as the main cathedral. 

    I love Apple, and I am super glad to hear that they're still putting their shoulder behind the grindstone and are committed to improving Maps, because compared to Google, they have a very long way to go. Maybe that's not true in big cities like San Fran or New York, but in smaller places it is very much the case.
    Yet, I live in Montreal (in the province of Quebec and have Google maps on my phone and find it pretty much a dud. So, not even sure what you're talking about.

    Google is good for POI things, that's the WHOLE BUSINESS (thank god they're actually good at their own job), but their map has not improved much in a long time and in my neighborhood there are 3 errors that have been there for 10 years. Their POI also are pretty horrible, half the businesses inside 1km are missing and a third of those that are there are the wrong ones!!!

    Seems they're more interested in downtowns or cool neighborhoods than in places outside it  (though I'm sure if I go around downtown Montreal, a huge amount of businesses will be missing there too).
    edited June 2018 watto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 20 of 76
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    ireland said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    OMG! 

    I saw one two days ago!  It was cruising along the Queens Road in Reading. I thought it was a fake because it had a sign on the side that said Apple Maps, and I thought all the mapping vans were plain white. Maybe it was one of the new ones they’re running themselves. 

    Anyne else in the UK seen one?
    You can search online to see them. They've been using the writing on the exterior for quite a while.
    Yep. It was them. 😱
    kuduwatto_cobraAlex1N
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