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Australian Police Warn That Apple Maps Could Get Someone Killed 452

First time accepted submitter jsherring writes "Police in Victoria, Australia warn that Apple's glitch-filled Maps app could get someone killed, after motorists looking for the Victorian city of Mildura were instead guided to a wilderness area. Relying on Apple Maps to navigate through rural Australia seems rather foolish but it has become common practice to rely on GPS navigation. Besides reverting to google maps, perhaps Apple should provide strong warnings to use other navigation sources if navigating to remote locations."
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Australian Police Warn That Apple Maps Could Get Someone Killed

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  • by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Monday December 10, 2012 @07:17AM (#42240717)

    The root cause of this, and many of the other errors in city location observed throughout Australia, is actually quite simple and I don't know why Apple haven't fixed it yet. It was a bit of a facepalm moment when I realised what was actually going on with the Australian maps on iOS6.

    Basically there are two problems:

    1. Apple Maps is marking the centre of local government areas (analogous to a county, for American readers) as a point location, rather than a name for a large area of land (i.e. it's treating them as locations you can navigate to); and

    2. In the case that a search query matches both a local government area name, AND a town name ... it preferences the local government area (which as mentioned, is being mapped as an exact point roughly in the middle of the area, generally in the middle of nowhere)

    For example, follow the Hume Highway south from Sydney a little way and you will see a point marked as Wingecaribee, east of the highway, roughly in the vicinity of where the town of Moss Vale is (though, as noted, the GUI chooses to display Wingecaribee prominently, but doesn't mark Moss Vale or any other towns at all, unless you zoom in really close). The point marked as Wingecaribee is just a random spot in rugged forested terrain. Nothing's actually there. This is simply the centre of the Wingecaribee Shire. But there is no actual town called Wingecaribee so apart from looking weird, this doesn't hurt anything.

    BUT ... keep following the highway south and you will soon come to the next shire, Goulburn Shire. Again, the centre of this local government area is marked as a point, called "Goulburn" and again, it's not anywhere near anything. It's in the middle of some random farmer's field somewhere. BUT THIS TIME, we have a problem, because within Goulburn Shire, there is actually also a town called Goulburn. But if you search for 'Goulburn', you are directed to the centre of the Goulburn Shire, NOT the town. This is completely retarded, as noone ever searches for things by local government area name in Australia (many people don't even know the name of their LGA ... they aren't as prominently known as counties in the US), and even if they did, wouldn't want to be directed to some arbitrary point near the middle of it with no regard for whether there's anything there.

    This is what has happened in TFA too. There is a Mildura local government area. Within that, there is also a city called Mildura. But the city isn't marked; only the centre of the LGA. Which as stated, is in the middle of bloody nowhere.

    Basically whoever processed the Australian mapping data has interpreted LGA (shire, county etc.) names as locality (town, city) names. And has given them prominence in both display and search results over actual localities. Should be simple to fix, surely. The data is there - it's just being used incorrectly.

  • Re:Apple bashing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Monday December 10, 2012 @07:43AM (#42240827)

    Good question. They were travelling to a reasonably sized town, in a regional area. The big clue should have been when they left a sealed road - despite the remoteness of most of Australia, a place of Mildura's size (30k+) will be accessible by proper state highways, which are virtually all sealed (a few exceptions, e.g. the Silver City Highway north of Broken Hill ... but that's far more remote than the area we are talking about in TFA). Most people should have got the clue at that point that something was wrong. Secondly, even in very remote areas, things are usually signposted well.

    The second clue would have been when they stopped seeing any other traffic. They weren't going seriously "outback" here, or to a place that was remote enough to bother with carrying provisions etc. They were travelling to a town in the country, but not a super-remote area. I mean, for one thing, Mildura is on the Sturt Highway which is THE major route between Sydney and Adelaide - it's not isolated by any means. They would have every expectation that a GPS would guide them there correctly. And an ACTUAL GPS (i.e. Garmin, Tom Tom etc.) would have, no issues at all. So would Google Maps, for that matter. But really if you are travelling long distances - use a proper GPS that doesn't depend on network connectivity to get the mapping data (or an app on your phone that allows you to pre-cache maps, and has a good data source).

  • by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Monday December 10, 2012 @08:14AM (#42240939)

    This seems like a non-story. Open Street Map correctly locates Mildura. When you do a search for Mildura on it, though, GeoNames offers three potential locations: Mildura, Mildura Airport, and Mildura Shire [], which OSM locates where iOS6 reportedly locates Mildura: []

    Put another way, it's as if mindless users followed Google Map directions to Arizona, instead of Arizona City, and ended up in the middle of Tonto National Forest [], and issued a warning that Google Maps are inaccurate. Well, duh, how about suggesting to zoom in instead, so as to make sure you're not heading in the middle of nowhere?

  • Re:Apple bashing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tambo ( 310170 ) on Monday December 10, 2012 @08:40AM (#42241063)
    Yeah, this.

    Mid-2011, I was driving through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado along a road that would around the outside of a canyon. My GPS told me to take a right turn onto "Route 82d." You know what was off to my right? Nothing. A steep degrade, through a bunch of trees, and ending up in the canyon maybe 50 feet down.

    I was so shocked by it that I turned around, drove the route again, and captured it with my phone: link []

    Bottom line: Don't blindly trust your GPS.

  • by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Monday December 10, 2012 @08:48AM (#42241093)

    Not quite. The slight difference here is that Mildura refers to the City or the county depending on the context. If people frequently referred to Arizona City as Arizona, you would end up with the same kind of bogus police warnings.

    This is not to discount Apple's fault (or Google's, for that matter []), far from it. If you ask for directions to Mildura (respectively Arizona), then -- duh! -- you almost certainly mean the city; and if not you want to reach its border, as opposed to the precise middle of it.

    At any rate, the sensationalist stories that surround this police report amount to click-hungry journalists who are collectively making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  • Re:Apple bashing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kactusotp ( 2709311 ) on Monday December 10, 2012 @12:53PM (#42243351)
    We don't bother with anything as common as sand up in shark bay []

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn