Apple Maps Vehicles to Roam Honolulu
Apple announced today that it will be "driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps," and Honolulu will be one of the first fifteen U.S. cities targeted by the program.
In fact, an Apple Maps van was spotted here in February, long before anyone really knew what they were up to.
The Cupertino company has been investing heavily in its own mapping software and database, after parting ways with Google and its map services in 2012. The transition wasn't a smooth one, with incomplete and inaccurate maps sparking mockery, a class-action lawsuit, and even more mockery. ("It's Apple Maps bad.") Apple issued a rare apology and even recommended that iPhone users use maps offered by competitors.
Of course, Google had a huge head start, and its camera-toting road-scanning vehicles were spotted roaming around Honolulu back in 2009. In fact, after the initial release of Google Street View images in Hawaii, they came back a couple of years later with even more fancy tools, building toward a huge Hawaii update in Google Maps in 2012.
Nonetheless, Apple has worked hard to close the gap, and Apple Maps has gotten better with each release. Just yesterday, Apple announced that it would be adding transit directions to Apple Maps, checking off one more feature that Apple Maps lacked compared to Google's offering.
Google Street View seems to be the next target of Apple's app upgrades, but it's a doozy. Google's camera equipped vehicles have traveled over 12 million miles so far.
Apple's camera vans had been spotted across the country since late last year. At first, nobody knew who was behind them, but the Apple link was confirmed in February. Today's announcement makes the large-scale image-capture program official, and gives advance notice of the vans' imminent arrival. (Hopefully they'll get a better reception than Google's first forays did in 2009.)
"We are committed to protecting your privacy while collecting this data," Apple notes. "For example, we will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication."
The first wave of Apple Maps vehicles will hit the road between June 15 and June 30. This presumably includes Hawaii, unless the van spotted in February was a production rather than a test vehicle.
In addition to Honolulu, Apple will be visiting Tuscon, Arizona; Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Orlando, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; New York City, New York; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Seattle, Washington.
Outside the U.S., Apple Maps is starting with England and Ireland.
Honolulu drivers, keep your eyes peeled. But while I can't wait to see more local photos of Apple Maps vans in the wild, please keep your hands on the wheel.
Hat tip: Wayne Akiyama at Tekspotting. Photos by David Sifry and Claycord.com.