How Apple Maps is Changing

JEFFERSON CITY, TN — Is Apple trying to outdo Google StreetView?

I’ll just bet one of the apps on the first page of most smartphones is a maps app. Whether it’s from Google, Apple or Waze (which is also Google), you’re using a GPS location app to get directions and share your location with other people.

Apple’s Maps app may have been the first, but it wasn’t very good when first launched. Google’s Map app was released and became everyone’s favorite for its accurate directions and integration with Street View and Google Earth. Now, Apple is finally getting closer to catching up with Google

Last week I spotted an unusual looking white SUV with a giant pole come out of the roof with three spinning cylinders. It wasn’t a Google Street View camera, this one had the web address www.maps.apple.com on the side.

“Apple maps, is this new?,” I asked the woman getting out of the passenger seat. “Yes, it is new,” she said. “It really hasn’t started the way they’re planning to do it.”

Apple has deployed a fleet of vehicles to improve its Maps app.  The vehicle I spotted was equipped with multiple 360-degree cameras, LiDAR sensors and other technologies to capture data from every road in the world. The drivers couldn’t talk to me on camera but say they cover about 400 detailed miles a day.

Apple has kept mum on all of its plans for Maps, but judging by how these vehicles are rigged, Apple is working on its own “Street View” of the world.

Speaking of Street View, I found myself behind a Google Street View vehicle a couple of days earlier going through parking lots and driveways of businesses and retail centers. Google too is in the process of updating Street View data around the country.

The most exciting advancement in location, is from a company out of the UK, “What3Words”. It’s divided the earth into a grid of 57 trillion 3 meter squares. Each square has a unique 3-word address.

The simple explanation in its About page said: “It’s as simple as saying table, lamp, spoon to find that specific location.”

Using the website www.what3words.com I started on the United States shown on a Google map, then randomly zoomed in on a forest somewhere in the Midwest. One 3.3 grid box was labeled ropes. warnings. persist. Take a step or two and you’ll be at holding. compulsion. blaming.

3 word addresses can be used by first responders, energy companies, pizza delivery, rideshare services and the general public using the free What3Words app. Users can share their precise location with a couple of taps on the screen.

What3 Words didn’t build maps or drive vehicles around the world. They took GPS coordinates and converted them to 3-word combinations. No two combinations are the same and even those that sound similar have been separated by thousands of miles so there’s no confusion. This could be a huge game changer in many ways. Emergency responders in the UK recently started using what3words, believing it’ll be easier to locate someone who needs immediate help with just three little words.