Apple's Taking Cars to the Road to Add StreetView-Like Features to Maps

By Jamie Condliffe on at

With a subtle announcement on its website, Apple has confirmed that it’s sending cars out onto the streets of the UK, Ireland and the US in order to acquire data, including images, that will be used to improve its Maps service.

On a new page, Apple writes that it’s “driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps”. It goes on to explain that “[s]ome of this data will be published in future Apple Maps update”. The Cupertino company says that between 15th and 30th June, its cars will be visiting spots across the US, UK and Ireland (check out a full list below).

Apple points out that it is “committed to protecting... privacy while collecting this data, explaining that it will “blur faces and licence plates on collected images prior to publication”. That statement indicates that its cars will be loaded with cameras to acquire images in the same manner Google’s StreetView.

What isn’t made clear is if any other data acquisitions systems — say, radar or laser scanners — are aboard. It’s those kinds of scans that could help Apple build incredibly detailed and nuanced maps of city streets, the like of which are used by Google and others right now to help self-driving cars navigate.

But if not — if Apple is merely photographing city streets — it’s a very late catch-up with Google, which began rolling out StreetView all the way back in 2006. Still, tardiness with maps isn’t unexpected from Apple, which only added public transport directions to its Maps services this week.

Apple is currently driving its cars in the following regions:

ENGLAND

East of England

Essex (Brentwood, Epping Forest), Hertfordshire (Broxbourne, Dacorum, Hertsmere, St Albans, Three Rivers, Watford, Welwyn Hatfield)

Greater London

Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Camden, City of London, City of Westminster, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth

South East

Kent (Dartford, Sevenoaks), Surrey (Elmbridge, Epsom and Ewell, Spelthorne)

West Midlands

Birmingham (Sutton Coldfield, Perry Barr, Erdington, Ladywood, Hodge Hill, Yardley, Edgbaston, Hall Green, Selly Oak, Northfield), Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Staffordshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Worcestershire

IRELAND

Dublin (Dublin City [Ashtown, Ballybough, Ballyfermot, Ballygall, Ballymun, Beaumont, Cabra, Chapelizod, Cherry Orchard, Clontarf, Coolock, Crumlin, Donaghmede, Drimnagh, Drumcondra, East Wall, Fairview, Finglas, Firhouse, Glasnevin, Inchicore, Irishtown, Kilbarrack, Kilmainham, Kilmore, Kimmage, Knocklyon, North Wall, Pembre, Phibsborough, Raheny, Rathfarnham, Rathgar, Rathmines, Ringsend, Sandymount, Santry, Templeogue, Terenure, The Liberties, Walkinstown, Whitehall], Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal, South Dublin)

United States

Arizona

Pima (Tucson)

California

Alameda (Oakland), Los Angeles (Los Angeles)

Florida

Orange County (Orlando)

Georgia

Fulton (Atlanta)

Hawaii

Hawaii (Oahu)

Illinois

Cook (Chicago)

Massachusetts

Suffolk (Boston)

Michigan

Wayne (Detroit)

Missouri

St. Louis (St. Louis)

New York

New York (New York City)

Texas

Dallas (Dallas), Tarrant (Fort Worth)

Utah

Salt Lake (Salt Lake City)

Washington

King (Seattle)

[Apple via Guardian]