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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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For the past several months, Apple-leased Dodge Caravans with equipment-laden roofs have been spotted driving around the United States. While early speculation suggested the vans could be Apple's first attempt at developing a self-driving vehicle, it quickly became clear that the vans were being used for mapping purposes.

The Dodge Caravans are all outfitted with an array of LIDAR cameras, much like the vehicles that Google uses to capture images for its Street View mapping feature, so it is no surprise that a report shared today by 9to5Mac suggests the images and data from the vans will be used for future improvements to Apple's Maps feature. Here at MacRumors, we have been aggregating Apple van sightings to give a clear picture of the areas where Apple is currently focusing its attention.

Click on the map to go to a full interactive view complete with pictures from each sighting​
Apple has worked tirelessly to improve the Maps app since its 2012 launch, fulfilling Tim Cook's promise that Apple would work "non-stop" until Maps met its "incredibly high standard." The next step in Maps' evolution is the gathering of in-house data to reduce reliance on third-party companies like TomTom, which has provided data for Apple Maps since it launched. Just this month, TomTom and Apple renewed their mapping contract, so Apple's shift towards its own data system may still be several years off.

Using in-house data has the potential to significantly improve the Maps experience. Apple will not have to rely on third-party information that's potentially riddled with errors and inaccuracies, and the company will also be able to implement changes and fixes more quickly.

Apple-Van-New-Jersey.jpg
In the future, the imagery captured by the vans may be used by Apple to create its own 3D street level viewing experience to complement its existing Flyover feature. Flyover is designed to let Maps users explore landmarks and major cities around the world through an aerial view. A street level addition to Flyover could perhaps be useful in day-to-day life to get a look at nearby locations, but it's possible Apple has its eye on something grander, perhaps giving Maps users a way to explore exotic locations on a more granular level.

Apple is also reportedly using its fleet of Dodge Caravans to capture images of storefronts and businesses, and this data may be of more immediate use to the company. Imagery of stores, businesses, and restaurants may be incorporated into an upcoming iOS 9 revamp to Apple's Points of Interest system, replacing photographs pulled in from third-party sources like Yelp.

We may see the first fruits of Apple's new mapping project as soon as June 8, when Apple unveils iOS 9 at WWDC and provides it to developers for testing purposes. iOS 9 is rumored to have a few other upgrades in addition to a new Points of Interest system, including transit routing information in a limited number of cities.

Article Link: Apple-Leased Vans Gathering Maps Info for Shift to In-House Mapping Database
 

shartypants

macrumors 6502a
Jul 27, 2010
922
60
Would be so great to have a reliable version of the Maps app. For now I'm mostly using Google Maps.
 
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AngerDanger

Graphics
Staff member
Dec 9, 2008
5,419
28,732
Hopefully, they won't be using Apple Maps for navigation.

2iuZfp9l.png
 
Last edited:

triptolemus

macrumors 6502a
Apr 17, 2011
730
1,150
Apple will not have to rely on third-party information that's potentially riddled with errors and inaccuracies,

Instead they can rely on their own information that's riddled with errors and inaccuracies... :rolleyes:
 

macintologist

macrumors 6502a
May 3, 2004
516
656
Since Google apps are always inefficient and CPU hungry, I would love to use Apple integrated services.
 

Corrode

macrumors 6502a
Dec 26, 2008
992
2,121
Calgary, AB
I wish Apple let us choose Google Maps as our default mapping application. I'd love to ask Siri for directions but she can never find what I'm looking for or her directions are wrong.

I'm in Canada so I don't get the reliability of US Apple Maps.
 
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co.ag.2005

macrumors 68020
Jun 17, 2009
2,353
1,777
Fort Worth, TX
I wish Apple let us choose Google Maps as our default mapping application. I'd love to ask Siri for directions but she can never find what I'm looking for or her directions are wrong.

I'm in Canada so I don't get the reliability of US Apple Maps.

I'm in the USA and don't get reliable Apple Maps
 
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nfl46

macrumors 604
Oct 5, 2008
7,564
6,187
Great job, Apple! I'm glad they are taking control!

Not sure why people are complaining so much, when Google Apps is available to download in the App Store. No one is forcing you to use Apple Maps right now.
 

tennisproha

macrumors 65816
Jun 24, 2011
1,427
901
Texas
I've said time and time again here that Flyover has so much more potential than Street View solely because of the fact that its free-axis. This allows for much more functionality and efficiency.

Everyone on here over exaggerates Maps shortcomings so massively lol. Pretty funny.

All aboard the Apple Maps hate bandwagon. :rolleyes:
 

TCFATL

macrumors newbie
May 29, 2015
1
1
Atlanta, GA, USA
Similar Van Cited in Atlanta on 05/23/15

Attached is a photo of such a minivan seen at the intersection of Northside Drive and Mt. Paran Road in the North Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, GA, USA on 05/23/15.

Definitely had several LIDAR sensors spinning very rapidly (hard to see in the photo). The rooftop "payload" looked exactly like other "spy photos" posted in recent months.

A "passenger" was standing in front of the minivan was parked at the Mt. Paran Country Store (and appeared to be chain smoking) while the "driver" was inside buying "convenience store food" likely to fuel what is an endless road trip.

Specific LAT / LON of citing was 33.878055, -84.412652

Thought I'd share ...

TCF

IMG_1985.jpg
 
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numlock

macrumors 68000
Mar 13, 2006
1,590
88
Great job, Apple! I'm glad they are taking control!

Not sure why people are complaining so much, when Google Apps is available to download in the App Store. No one is forcing you to use Apple Maps right now.

who was in control before?

if you are not sure then just look 2 posts above you. forced is exactly the situation that people are in.
 

nfl46

macrumors 604
Oct 5, 2008
7,564
6,187
who was in control before?

if you are not sure then just look 2 posts above you. forced is exactly the situation that people are in.

So what if its not your default app, take 5 seconds out of your precious time and click on Google Maps. If you want Google Maps integrated, then go buy an Android phone. Simple as that.
 

definitive

macrumors 68020
Aug 4, 2008
2,005
808
Apple-Van-New-Jersey.jpg


so it's a self-driving, map data-collecting apple product? brilliant! this changes everything!
 
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