Apple Maps in iOS 16 will gain multi-stop routing, which I thought was a long-established feature on other platforms, as well as transit fare/card/pass integration. Apple’s new maps will also expand to more countries, and its detailed city maps will expand to more cities in the U.S., Australia and Canada. 9to5Mac has a summary.
Three updates to Google Maps were announced at Google I/O today. The big one is an immersive view mode that creates a digital model of a city from aerial imagery and Street View: it’s coming later this year to London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, with more cities coming later. It’s not just about 3D models of buildings—Apple’s got those—but also interiors, as Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated in the keynote.
Also announced: an expansion of eco-friendly routing to Europe and making Live View available to third-party apps. More coverage: Engadget, TechCrunch, The Verge.
Yesterday, reports that Google Maps had stopped obscuring satellite imagery of sensitive Russian military facilities spread like wildfire across Twitter. Only there was no official announcement from Google saying they’d done so, and while Ukrainian Twitter was seriously running with it, I wanted to see some confirmation from the mapping side. In the event, an update to Ars Technica’s story says that Google hadn’t stopped blurring the imagery—the imagery hadn’t been blurred in the first place. “A Google spokesperson told Ars that the company hasn’t changed anything with regard to blurring out sensitive sites in Russia, so perhaps none of us were looking closely until now.”
Updates to Google Maps announced today include estimated prices for toll roads as well as increased navigation detail. “You’ll soon see traffic lights and stop signs along your route, along with enhanced details like building outlines and areas of interest. And, in select cities, you’ll see even more detailed information, like the shape and width of a road, including medians and islands–you can better understand where you are, and help decrease the odds of making last-minute lane changes or missing a turn.” There are also updates specific to the Apple platform: iPhone and iPad users will get new widgets, Siri and Spotlight integration, and Apple Watch support. The updates will be rolling out gradually: some in a few weeks, some later this summer.
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.
.@googlemaps This is an abject failure. You are sending people up a poorly maintained forest road to their death in a severe blizzard. Hire people who can address winter storms in your code (or maybe get some of your engineers who are stuck in Tahoe right now on it). pic.twitter.com/IzagAXzBtA
Other dispatches from Twitter allege that the service—particularly its mobile app—directed people to closed-off highways, mountain passes and lakeside roads to get around. This is in direct contrast to Caltrans’ messaging to avoid workarounds. Caltrans District 3 spokesperson Steve Nelson told SFGATE on Monday that they were seeing drivers trying to skirt highway closures with side streets. “They’ll take side roads and try and sneak past the closures, and that never ends well,” he said.
Google engineer Sören Meyer-Eppler responded on Twitter to spell out some of the technical and logistical problems involved in rerouting traffic during bad weather: the difficulty in finding timely data (and in such cases data need to be really timely) and the risk of false positives. More at Jalopnik.
The Guardian: “Scottish mountaineering charities have criticised Google for suggesting routes up Ben Nevis and other mountains they say are ‘potentially fatal’ and direct people over a cliff.” Google Maps’s issue with Ben Nevis is that it routes to a parking lot nearest the summit, then more or less straight-lines it from there; as a dotted line it’s meant to indicate a route very imprecisely, but it also corresponds to a higher-difficulty ascent route that could land even experienced hikers in trouble. Not meant to be taken by people who don’t know what they’re doing—the people who might have no clue that it’s a bad idea to use Google Maps for mountain hiking, for example.
To be clear, I think this one’s on Google. A lot of people trust online maps implicitly because they have poor navigation skills and have a hard time overruling what the directions tell them: this is why people keep driving into rivers and onto tracks. It’s a design failure not to account for this in every circumstance.
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.
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 announced earlier this month that their updated Street View app for Android—as an Apple user I had no idea that Street View was a separate app on Android—now supports user-contributed photos to Street View. “After you record your images and publish them via the Street View app, we automatically rotate, position and create a series of connected photos. We then place those connected images in the right place on Google Maps, so your new Street View can be found in the exact location where it was taken for others to see and explore.” The idea is to supplement Google’s imagery where it’s thin on the ground. This beta feature requires an ARCore-compatible Android device and is only available in a few areas for now: Toronto, New York, and Austin TX (presumably for testing purposes), as well as Costa Rica, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Google Maps has a Nazi problem, says Mike Shaughnessy: the service’s inadequate review moderation and its poor handling of memorials (whichit expects to act as businesses) provide an inadvertent platform “for Nazi veneration and Holocaust jokes.”
Google has agreed to Parks Australia’s request that user photos taken from the summit of Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) be removed from Street View; climbing Uluru, which is owned by and sacred to the Pitjantjatjara people, has been prohibited since 2019. ABC Australia, CNN. As of this writing a couple of images are still visible. Aerial coverage is unaffected. [Boing Boing]