All Online Maps Don’t Suck?

OpenStreetMap was always pretty good but is also now *really* good? And Apple Maps's new zoomed-in design in certain cities like NYC and London is just gorgeous. It's cool how there are all these good maps now!The notion expressed in Monday’s xkcd, particularly in the alt-text—

OpenStreetMap was always pretty good but is also now really good? And Apple Maps’s new zoomed-in design in certain cities like NYC and London is just gorgeous. It’s cool how there are all these good maps now!

—is unexpectedly more on point than not.

In 2013 I wrote a screed saying that all online maps sucked: that no one map platform had a monopoly on errors. At the time Exhibit A for the suckiness of online maps was Apple Maps; since then, and particularly since 2018, Apple has been putting in the work. Not that they’re done, but still: the product is fundamentally better now than it was then. And it’s not like the other platforms have been idle in the meantime. No one platform is going to achieve Cartography’s ideal of the universal and accurate Map—that’s inherently unachievable—but better? I’ll take better.

Apple Maps Updates: Germany, Singapore and U.S. Cycling Directions

Justin O’Beirne notes that Apple’s new maps—which, remember, were first announced in 2018, so: for certain values of newhave arrived in Germany and Singapore. Also, he observes that Apple is adding cycling directions in roughly the same order the new maps rolled out in the United States: they were added to the Midwest in mid-April, and northeastern states at the beginning of the month.

Mapping the Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Roundup #2

Content warning: Some of these links contain disturbing images: I’ve marked them with a †.

More on the question of whether theatre maps accurately reflect the ground situation. Nathan Ruser’s maps have been used to argue that Russian forces are controlling roads rather than territory, but Ruser complains that his maps are being misinterpreted: they were never meant to show territorial control, just troop movements. See also this Twitter thread from Jennifer Cafarella, in which she explains the methodology and reasoning behind her team’s maps.

3D models of bombing damage.† Satellite imagery and 3D photogrammetric data are used to create 3D models of bombing damage in Ukraine. [Maps Mania]

A map of attacks on civilian targets with photo and video documentation. [Nataliya Gumenyuk]

Where hot spots are literally hot spots. In a Twitter thread, Sotris Valkaniotis shows how military operations in Ukraine show up in Landsat spectral imagery: weapons fire turns up as hot spots showing “very high temperature in short-wave infrared band.”

A Ukrainian map of alleged Russian casualties† and where they were deployed from. [Michael Weiss]

A map of checkpoint traffic. More than two million Ukrainians have fled the Russian invasion. Overwhelmingly, they’re fleeing westward. This map shows how busy each border checkpoint is: Polish border crossings are extremely congested. [Kyiv Independent]

Meanwhile, Kenneth Field has been working on ways to map Ukraine’s refugees. Here’s his most recent iteration:

Ukraine’s population density. More than 41 million people live in Ukraine. This map from Airwars shows the population density per square kilometre. Which shows how many people in an area are affected by a particular military strike.

Apple says Crimea is Ukrainian. Mashable: “Apple’s Maps and Weather apps now mark Crimea as part of Ukraine when accessed outside of Russia. It appears the company has quietly updated its stance on the territorial dispute.” Apple had marked Crimea as Russian in 2019, which pissed Ukraine off at the time. [TechCrunch]

Finally, this striking bit of art:

Traffic Data Inadvertently Revealed the Start of the Russian Invasion

AppleInsider looks at how online maps (Apple Maps, Google Maps), especially their traffic layer, inadvertently revealed Russian troop movements at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The sheer volume of mapping data now available at our fingertips means it was possible for civilians half a world away to see when Russian forces began moving. Specifically, that data pinpointed a traffic jam starting on the Russian side of the border, actively moving into Ukraine in the first few minutes of the Russian and Ukraine conflict.

Just as with any cartography, this information required interpreting. Google Maps did not specifically say that it was troop movements, nor was its satellite imagery up to the minute. During the process of researching this story, we’ve confirmed that Apple Maps presented similar inbound troop movement information—but it wasn’t setting out to do that either.

What these services did, though, was register all of the smartphone users whose driving was slowed or halted by unusual traffic conditions. Wherever the majority of the data came from, it was possible to determine what was happening when coupled with known details of Russian troop locations.

Apple Maps Asia-Pacific Update

Apple’s new maps have come to Australia [9to5Mac, MacRumors].

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reports that “iPhone and Apple Watch users in China can no longer see their geographic coordinates and elevation on the Compass app, according to Chinese media reports and user comments. However, information including bearings and general location are still available.”

And according to a report in The Information (paywall) that was summarized by John Gruber, back in 2014 or 2015 the Chinese State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping required Apple Maps to make the disputed Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands appear large even when zoomed out, and made the Apple Watch’s Chinese release contingent on that request—to which Apple acquiesced.

A Look at Apple Maps in iOS 15

MacRumors takes a look at the changes to Apple Maps in iOS 15. “Apple has made so many improvements to the Maps app in iOS 15 that it’s almost an entirely different experience. There are better driving directions, improved transit directions, and more immersive AR-based walking directions.” That’s maybe a bit over the top, in the fashion of the Apple-focused tech press, but at any rate there are a bunch of screenshots.

Previously: Apple Maps Updates Announced at WWDC.

Apple Maps Updates Announced at WWDC

Upgrades to Apple Maps were announced on Monday at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference: see coverage from AppleInsider, Engadget and TechCrunch, as well as the video of the keynote itself (the Maps section starts at 29:47).

Apple Maps on an iPhoneThe changes will be coming to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey this fall. They include highly detailed city maps (for only a few cities at launch); a three-dimensional map for navigation that indicates, among other things, complex intersections; improved transit features such as bus route integration and next stop notifications; precise walking directions based on a scan of nearby buildings; and an interactive globe when zoomed out. (Note that not all of these features will be available on Intel Macs, which lack the Neural Engine in Apple’s own chips, nor on older iPhones or iPads with an A11 or earlier chip.)

The Weather app will also be getting temperature, precipitation and air quality maps (see TechCrunch coverage). And Italy and Australia were announced as the next countries to get Apple’s upgraded map layer.

Update 11 Jun: MacRumors has a roundup.

Update 15 Jun: Justin O’Beirne has been adding screenshots of Apple’s redesigned maps—its new new maps—to this page.

Google Maps Updates at Google I/O; Apple Maps Additions

Google Maps-related announcements at Google’s I/O 2021 keynote today include routing improvements to reduce hard braking, enhancements to Live View, expanding Google’s new detailed maps to 50 cities, identifying crowded areas, and tailoring map data to time of day and whether you’re travelling. This post takes a deeper dive on two of those upgrades. Coverage from the usual suspects: Engadget, The Verge.

Meanwhile, recent additions to Apple Maps include cycling directions in Seattle and Look Around imagery in Atlanta, Sendai and Kanazawa.

Apple and Google Updates: AI Improvements, Airport Health Measures

Last week Google announced “over 100 AI-powered improvements to Google Maps” would be coming this year; these include bringing Live View indoors, a new air quality map layer, eco-friendly routing, and support for curbside pickup in business listings.

Meanwhile, Apple Maps is now displaying airport COVID-19-related health measures based on data from Airports Council International: press release. [AppleInsider, MacRumors]

Google and Apple Updates

Google explains how they identify and take action against fraudulent content—fake reviews, fake listings, content vandalism—on Google Maps.

Meanwhile, the ability to pay for parking and transit fares is being integrated into the Google Maps app (Engadget, The Verge).

On the Apple Maps front, cycling directions have come to Portland, Oregon and San Diego, and turn-by-turn navigation has been expanded in the United Arab Emirates.

Crowdsourced Incident Reporting Coming to Apple Maps

Crowdsourced incident reporting—a feature already available in Google Maps and Waze—is coming to Apple Maps: the beta release of iOS 14.5 enables users to report accidents, road hazards and speed checks, with Siri and CarPlay integration. More at CNet’s Roadshow and MacRumors, among others; the final, public release of iOS 14.5 should come out some time in the spring, I think.

Apple Maps Updates Canada

Apple’s new maps, first announced in 2018, have finally come to Canada: they went live country-wide on 10 December. See coverage from AppleInsider and MacRumors; Justin O’Beirne compares the new maps with the old.

The update also includes Look Around, and not just in a few locations. Elsewhere in the world, Look Around is being rolled out on a city-by-city basis; in Canada it’s far more comprehensive. How comprehensive? I live in a village of 1,600 people not far from Ottawa, and my house is on it. (Based on the state of our gardening, the imagery was taken sometime in 2019, either in late summer or early fall.) Major highways are also included, not just cities. Justin O’Beirne looks at the coverage areas.

Canada is the fourth country to get the new maps: Ireland and the U.K. got them in October.