Fleet of camera-laden minivans part of Apple Maps data collection effort

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Date: Monday, June 1st, 2015, 07:49
Category: Developer, iOS, News, Pictures


If you were wondering what that minivan with photo gear attached to its roof was doing driving down the street, it’s probably one of Apple’s. In an effort to gather data for its iOS Maps app, a fleet of mysterious vans has appears and begun taking pictures of business storefronts to replace Yelp photos to replace Yelp photos. Sources have stated that this reduces the company’s reliance on outfits like TomTom and allows them to build a 3D Street View feature.

The vans have been spotted in cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas and New York this year and are part of an effort to gather in-house data for the Maps application.

Apple’s fleet of vans accompanies data that’s already been collected, such as through Apple’s recent acquisition of BroadMap. These minivans have been the subject of rampant speculation since they were first spotted months ago, including many guesses that they were test vehicles for upcoming Apple-designed cars. However, sources indicate that they are solely being used to gather data and images for the Apple Maps application.

Sources have stated that the current plan is to rework the data foundation used for the Maps application, shifting to the in-house base map database by 2017 and reducing the need on partners’ data. While Apple hopes to achieve the 2017 shift, a source says that Apple is not completely on track to meet this goal, so a 2018 launch may be more likely.

For end users, this change will mean more accurate and rapidly updated data. For Apple, this means more control over the core user experience, and, consequently, less of a need to rely on partners for data to be updated. Apple is notably taking a similar approach to its upcoming indoor mapping feature, which is being developed entirely in-house with iBeacons equipped to small autonomous robots.

To expand its 3D Flyover mode in Maps, Apple is working on ways to tie together its new camera data to make a street level version of 3D Maps for a future version of its Maps app. As Apple has only recently started collecting its 3D Street View data, such a feature is not likely to be imminent. However, Apple has another plan for the imagery it’s gathering that will appear sooner rather than later.

Sources say that Apple’s camera equipped vans are taking still pictures of businesses along commercial roads, an initiative Apple has internally codenamed “Project Gardar,” an apparent reference to Norse strongholds in new territory. Apple has planned to begin integrating still exterior photos of points of interest this fall in its iOS 9 Maps app. Currently, the individual cards (or listings) within the Apple Maps application are illustrated with Yelp’s images.

If you’ve seen one of these vans in your travels, please let us know. And, as always, we’ll have additional details as they become available.

Via 9to5Mac

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