A Google Maps Roundup

We’re almost at the end of the week of Mario on Google Maps. Announced for March 10 (“MAR10” Day), the temporary feature changed the navigator arrow into Mario driving his cart. Announced for both Android and iOS, but for some reason it never turned up in Google Maps on either my iPhone or my iPad, so I didn’t rush to post. [Business Insider]

Something that is turning up on my iPhone: plus codes, which appear to be Google’s homegrown solution to location codes, map codes and the like: a short string of characters that indicate a specific location on the globe. They were announced back in August 2015, but last month Geospatial World made note of their rollout.

Public transit navigation now includes wheelchair accessible routes, as of yesterday: “this feature is rolling out in major metropolitan transit centers around the world, starting with London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney. We’re looking forward to working with additional transit agencies in the coming months to bring more wheelchair accessible routes to Google Maps.”

Slashgear looks at the new Google Maps APIs for gaming, which, I guess, enable developers to build real-world games on top of Google Maps. Note that Pokémon Go is not built on Google Maps: I suspect this outcome means that Google has noticed that.

Inevitable, and surprisingly not before now: Disney’s parks in Street View.

MacVan Map Company Is Closing at the End of March

MacVan Map Company, the Colorado map publisher and store, is closing at the end of March—another victim, the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, of car- and smartphone-based navigation systems:

MacVan General Manager Bob Stanley, one of two remaining employees of a company that once employed nearly 20 people, said this week he and owner Ken Field agonized for four months, trying to find way to keep the company alive.

“We were just looking for a path to stay open. We went through the books, but it just wasn’t going to happen. It (the business) just wasn’t paying for itself,” Stanley said. “I just want to thank our customers. We appreciate their loyalty. They have always been great to work with.”

MacVan is best known for “The Book,” its annual spiral-bound collection of detailed maps of the Colorado Springs area that has been a staple for real estate agents, delivery drivers, police and firefighters and even journalists. The company operates a retail store at 1045B Garden of the Gods Road and produces more than 40 different maps for cities along the Colorado Front Range and Western Slope, a telephone directory called the “Ute Pass Gold Book” for Teller County and parts of El Paso and Park counties as well as advertising and custom real estate maps.

MacVan has been in business since 1978. [MAPS-L]

The Pictorial Maps of Jean-Louis Rheault

Jean-Louis Rheault

KelownaNow reports that a pictorial tourist map of Kelowna, British Columbia will be updated by the original artist later this year. The original version, first released in 2012, was featured in the NACIS Atlas of Design in 2014. This local news item was my segue into the work of pictorial map artist Jean-Louis Rheault, who’s been producing map illustrations for cities, agencies, organizations and businesses for decades. His Flickr account contains many examples of his work, as does the portfolio section of his website. [WMS]

Helen Wallis

It’s International Women’s Day, and the British Library is taking a moment to mark the life of Helen Wallis (1924-1995), who headed the Library’s map collections between 1967 and 1986.

Helen Wallis was one of the leading figures in map librarianship who pioneered the study of cartography. She was the first woman to hold the position of Map Librarian, following on from her predecessor R.A. Skelton (1906-1970) in 1967. Over 19 years she made the British Library the centre for map studies through research, publications and exhibitions including the Cook bicentenary exhibition of 1968, the American War of Independence exhibition of 1975 and the Francis Drake exhibition of 1977.

A research fund for visiting scholars has also been set up in her name; details at the link.

Kenneth Field’s Dot Density Election Map

Kenneth Field

Earlier this week, Kenneth Field posted a quick-and-dirty dasymetric dot density map of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results to Twitter. It quickly went viral. In a subsequent blog post, he goes into some detail about the process of making the map. “The screengrab was quick and dirty and while there have been many and varied comments on the ‘map’ it’s by no means the finished article. I want to create a hi-res version and also make a web map like the 2012 version. I don’t have time to do this in the next couple of weeks but it will happen. But I am aware of a number of issues and some have already spotted them as have many others.”

See also Field’s gallery of thematic maps of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results.

The Unrecognized Women of Cartography

The Future Mapping Company looks at the unrecognized women of cartography. They point out that there are only two women (Marie Tharp and Jessamine Shumate) among the 200-plus names on Wikipedia’s list of cartographers, and come up with 10 names, some of which you might have heard of (Tharp, Phyllis Pearsall), others maybe you haven’t, but should have—and now you have. [NLS]

Atlas Obscura Wants a Map of Your Dream Island

Atlas Obscura is asking readers to draw a map of their perfect dream island and send it in to them. That’s something I can absolutely get behind.

If you could make an island to your exact specifications, what would it look like? What would make it unique—the true island of your individual dreams?

Maybe your island is made entirely of recycled bottles, or only accepts currency featuring Darth Vader. Perhaps your island is set up as a villains’ lair, or populated with magical creatures that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. Is your island an expansive paradise that will take years to explore, or a simple spot of sand surrounded by boundless ocean? Does it have a treehouse? A mansion? Is there a skull-shaped cave? A water park? A hidden base in a volcano? Mischievous monkeys? Pirate ghosts? A lost society of evolved super-beings?

You’ve got until, uh, tomorrow afternoon. Atlas Obscura will publish their favourites on Friday.

Indigenous Place Names in Canada

The University of Maine’s Canadian-American Center has published a map of indigenous place names in Canada:

Commissioned by Dr. Stephen J. Hornsby, Director of the Canadian-American Center, Coming Home to Indigenous Place Names in Canada was researched and designed by Dr. Margaret Wickens Pearce. The map depicts Indigenous place names across Canada, shared by permission of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities and people. The names express territorial rights and describe the shapes, sounds, and stories of sovereign lands. The names mark the locations of the gathering places, the communities, the places of danger and beauty, and the places where treaties were signed. The names are ancient and recent, both in and outside of time, and they express and assert the Indigenous presence across the Canadian landscape in Indigenous languages.

The map is available for purchase; a PDF is available for download for personal or educational use. [MAPS-L]

Previously: Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas.

Two Different Ways to Make Maps for Self-Driving Cars

Another piece on the various attempts to create detailed, high-definition maps for self-driving cars, this time from Bloomberg’s Mark Bergen, who views it through the prism of Google’s efforts in that space, and whether its competitors will be able to stop Google from dominating the high-definition mapping space the way it has come to dominate consumer maps.

There are, Bergen reports, two ways to make high-definition maps for self-driving cars:

The companies working on maps for autonomous vehicles are taking two different approaches. One aims to create complete high-definition maps that will let the driverless cars of the future navigate all on their own; another creates maps piece-by-piece, using sensors in today’s vehicles that will allow cars to gradually automate more and more parts of driving.

Alphabet is trying both approaches. A team inside Google is working on a 3-D mapping project that it may license to automakers, according to four people familiar with its plans, which have not previously been reported. This mapping service is different than the high-definition maps that Waymo, another Alphabet unit, is creating for its autonomous vehicles.

Waldo R. Tobler, 1930-2018

The influential geographer Waldo R. Tobler died last month at the age of 88. Tobler, who taught at the University of Michigan and UC Santa Barbara, was best known for his First Law of Geography, which he coined in 1970: “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” See obituaries from the AAG and UC Santa Barbara.

Update, 8 March: Obituary in the Santa Barbara Noozhawk.

The Chiswick Timeline

Abundance London

The Chiswick Timeline, a public mural of historic maps of Chiswick, London, situated along the walls of the underpass next to the Turnham Green tube station, opened earlier this month. A project of Abundance London, the mural is a series of panels reproducing maps of Chiswick from as early as the late 16th century, and traces its development into the London suburb it is today. An accompanying fold-out book is also available. [Londonist]

Apple, Google and Waze: Which Is Most Accurate?

Artur Grabowski spent most of 2017 testing three mapping apps—Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze—to see which app was the most accurate in terms of travel time to destination. His questions: which app estimated the shortest travel times, which app actually got him to his destination in the least amount of time, and how much did each app over- or underestimate travel times? In the end, based on 120 trips in the Bay Area, roughly 40 using each service, Artur found that Apple’s estimates were the most reliable (indeed, Apple underpromised and overdelivered), but while Waze promised the shortest travel times, those promises were usually overly optimistic; it was Google Maps that provided the shortest travel times.

Why does Apple underpromise and overdeliver, while Waze does the opposite? Artur suspects it’s because Waze needs to monetize its app with ads, and Apple doesn’t:

For Apple, Maps is a basic solution for its average user who wants a maps solution out of the box. Apple Maps does not directly drive ad or subscription revenue for Apple so there is less reason for Apple to incentivize iOS users to use Apple Maps over other solutions. However, Apple does care about user experience, and sandbagging trip time estimates so that users arrive at their destination on time results in a great user experience. Hence, I believe that Apple is intentionally conservative with estimated arrival times.

At the other extreme, Waze (Alphabet) makes money through ads when you use their app. What better way to get people to use your navigation app than by over-promising short trip times when no one takes the time to record data and realize that you under-deliver? If an unsuspecting user opens Apple Maps and sees a 34-minute route and compares that to 30 minutes in Waze, the deed is done. Now Waze has a life-long customer who doesn’t realize they’ve been hoodwinked and Waze can throw at them stupidly annoying ads.

[Daring Fireball/Kottke]