Apple is rebuilding Maps from the ground up using its of mapping data.
In an exclusive behind-the-scenes look given to TechCrunch, the Cupertino computing giant confirmed that it will be doing away with all third-party mapping data, which has provided the basis of the Maps application since the feature launched in 2012.
Going forward, Apple will rely on data that it has gathered from sensor-equipped vans over the past several years. Apple will also incorporate anonymized bits of travel data obtained by iPhone users opening the Maps app to get updated road and traffic information.
While Apple Maps has been improved over time, the service has a rocky history, especially when compared to rival Google Maps. Originally, Apple Maps featured a rather convoluted display and incorrectly listed places, such as mistaking a grocery store for a hospital. Apple Maps also suffered from a lack of support for public transportation users, in addition to numerous bugs. Apple CEO Tim Cook later had to issue a public apology in response to the widespread criticism of Apple Maps.
Now, however, Apple says it’s taken significant steps over the past four years to improve its Maps service. “Since we introduced this six years ago — we won’t rehash all the issues we’ve had when we introduced it — we’ve done a huge investment in getting the map up to par,” Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue told TechCrunch in an interview.
“When we launched, a lot of it was all about directions and getting to a certain place. Finding the place and getting directions to that place. We’ve done a huge investment of making millions of changes, adding millions of locations, updating the map and changing the map more frequently. All of those things over the past six years.”
Altogether, Apple says thousands of employees — and hundreds of editors — have worked towards rebuilding Maps. The company also used computer vision and machine learning tools to help solve issues along the way, particularly when it comes to Maps’ design. Computer vision, as well as satellite imagery, has helped Apple make elements like water, sporting areas and vegetation appear more prominent and fleshed out. This tech also led to swimming pools being added to Maps for the first time.
Apple says the new iteration of Maps will initially only be available to preview in the iOS 12 beta next week for users in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Timing for a wider rollout was not confirmed, although Apple says the new Maps will become available to all iOS users eventually.