Google Declares War on Apple Maps With Project "Ground Truth"

By Sam Gibbs on at

It's no secret that Google's going to get dumped from iOS 6 when Apple releases the update sometime this week. Gone will be YouTube and Google Maps, well, at least from stock iOS 6. Instead, Apple's pushing its own Maps, but Google's seemingly not taking it lying down. It thinks its "project Ground Truth" is its secret weapon in the new maps war.

In a rare interview with the BBC, Google's head of mapping, Brian McClendon, said that Apple's going to have to learn what it did, some four years ago: Relying on licensed maps gets you no where, fast.

Apple's pulling its new mapping data from TomTom, wrapping it up in its own app with a bit of fancy 3D "Flyover" thrown in for good measure. When Google maps first launched back in 2005, Google discovered that relying on others for you map data just plain sucked. It could take years for corrections and enhancements to be made, and when you're in a fast moving environment like maps, that's an eternity. So, it set upon adding to, and eventually replacing, the licensed mapping data itself, which is what the original project Ground Truth was all about.

Using Street View data, as well as local checks, feedback from users, and driving data from turn-by-turners, Google did an absolute butt-load of data processing to get to the stage we're at now with Google Maps. Google, apparently, crunched some 20 petabytes of Street View images to confirm addresses; businesses; one-way streets; speed limits; junctions -- everything that could possibly be pulled from the images was.

Of course, Apple can licence all it likes, but Google reckons that without serious investment over years and years into its own mapping data, it's going to be left sorely behind. Not only that, but Google's now launched project Ground Truth 2.0, extending it past the 31 nations currently covered in detail, to map the rest of the world in great detail, where at all possible.

So, while Google's miffed at being booted off the iPhone and iPad by default, and losing all the revenue that generates, the mapping war is on. Google's fighting talk pegs Apple miles behind, and from the limited experience we've had to Apple's maps, we can kind of see where Google's coming from.

Let's just hope Apple lets Google's own iOS Google Maps app through the App Store approval process, then we'll have the best of both worlds. Apple's own maps, plus an up-to-date Google Maps app to rival Android's -- sounds like a win-win situation to me, even if the two are duking it out. [BBC]