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Apple Will Use Drones To Improve the Quality of Apple Maps (bloomberg.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple plans to use drones and new indoor navigation features to improve its Maps service and catch longtime leader Google (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate link), according to people familiar with the matter. The Cupertino, California-based company is assembling a team of robotics and data-collection experts that will use drones to capture and update map information faster than its existing fleet of camera-and-sensor ladened minivans, one of the people said. Apple wants to fly drones around to do things like examine street signs, track changes to roads and monitor if areas are under construction, the person said. The data collected would be sent to Apple teams that rapidly update the Maps app to provide fresh information to users, the person added. Apple is also developing new features for Maps, including views inside buildings and improvements to car navigation, another person familiar with the efforts said. Apple filed for an exemption on Sept. 21, 2015, from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones for commercial purposes, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News. At that time, exemptions were required to commercially operate drones. In a response dated March 22, 2016, the FAA granted Apple approval to "operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography," according to one of the documents. Apple's application told the FAA that it would use a range of drones sold by companies such as SZ DJI Technology Co. and Aibotix GmbH to collect the data. Apple has hired at least one person from Amazon's Prime Air division to help run the drone team, one of the people said.
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Apple Will Use Drones To Improve the Quality of Apple Maps

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  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Thursday December 01, 2016 @08:17PM (#53405535)
    They don't have the engineering talent to catch up to Google's lead on maps or siri or anything else that doesn't involve making thinner phones.
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      More like bringing a drone to a skeet shoot.
    • They don't have the engineering talent to catch up to Google's lead on maps

      Apple maps at the outset did not have as good base data as Google. But even then it gave better directions than Google did - it directed me to my house via the route I already drove already because I knew it was the bast (that's the best way to judge map apps, but asking for directions for places you already know well and seeing if you agree).

      Nowadays Apple maps data is every bit as good as Google has, and I would say they repair e

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Uh huh. Sure.

        The drone isn't going to help with the problems Apple Maps has. The map data is fairly complete these days. Its problems are:

        1. Search
        2. Traffic
        3. Directions

        Searching for locations works the majority of the time. But it's still not uncommon to get results randomly across the country, if not in another country entirely.

        Traffic in iOS 10 is much improved: it now has some basis in reality. Not generally the current reality, but maybe as recently as 12 hours ago.

        Directions are worthless in iOS. Des

        • Searching for locations works the majority of the time. But it's still not uncommon to get results randomly across the country

          That happens sometimes but it also happens in Google Maps.

          Apple maps is still better for searching though. Try a search for "Arby's" - Apple maps zooms out to a view at city scale with the map taking up 3/4 of the screen, he two closest results in text at the bottom. Google maps zooms out to city scale too, but in a map that takes up the top 1/5 of the screen, basically unreadable

      • I'm in a major North American city and Google maps has almost no data on the construction in town. Some of it weeks after it began.

        I also don't trust Google maps for traffic. They seem to mark a route "Red" as heavy traffic faster than Apple maps, to the point that I ignore their statements on traffic density... the roads are usually not as bad as they say they are.

        Apple maps are quicker to read, faster to load, give me better traffic. OpenStreetmap gives me better detail on streets, walking paths,

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, Google Maps is hardly perfect. It still doesn't know where my house is, even though it's been here since 1978 and not exactly in the middle of nowhere - it's on a public street in a neighborhood of an established township. However, the tool to attempt to fix Google Maps knows exactly where my house is, so there's nothing I can do about it other than tell visitors to not use Google to find my house.

      One data point is hardly conclusive proof of anything, but don't act like Google is the god of mapping

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 01, 2016 @08:31PM (#53405621)

    ... hundreds of millions of phones which act as sensors and they need some drones???

    over-paid executives are idiots

  • Doesn't Apple need to develop it's own line of drones first?

    NIH is deeply entrenched in Apple culture.

    • by Threni ( 635302 )

      They're not using their own drones. Perhaps NIH is not as deeply entrenched there as you like to think?

  • *Ahem*! (Score:5, Funny)

    by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Thursday December 01, 2016 @08:37PM (#53405639)

    *Ahem*! They prefer to be called "cartographers".

  • ... will they need?

    There are construction projects going on all over hell's half an acre at any one given time.

    Apple needs to do R&D on their core products. They have way too much cash to be re-inventing the wheel.

    This sounds like the cluster-fuck Microsoft is having with smart phones -- too late to the party and they didn't even bring the ice.

    • by tsa ( 15680 )

      Indeed. I'd like a good iMac please, like we used to get before Steve died.

    • You'd imagine they could get construction data from the local government office who authorises the work to take place, no? I'm not saying super-detailed information isn't going to be good for maps, but some problems are largely solved already.

      FWIW, maps that can take traffic conditions into account, can tell you which lanes you could be in (as opposed to "keep left" or "keep right") and has some way of saying "just get me off this goddam road" would be great. I only use Google occasionally, and so far it ca

  • if a drone came in your yard without an invite could you keep it for dissection and experiments?

    • The short answer is no.

      There are laws regarding other people's property. You are legally obligated to make a good faith effort to tell them to come get their stuff in most cases. Since all UASes are now required to carry a registration number, assuming they comply with the law (heh) you will have all you need to contact them.

  • ..and by drones it means the user base....
  • How long until the first iDrone strikes beging? They'll start by taking out, the most vocal critics of the Apple Universe (Appleverse). Before long anyone holding a non-iDevice will risk being a target. Apple won't seek to establish a monopoly on the business side, but will on the buyer side. Nobody will dare touch anything else. ;)
  • by jrq ( 119773 ) on Friday December 02, 2016 @01:03PM (#53409749)
    It's not the quality of the maps that makes Google better than Apple. It's the simple matter of understanding that context-sensitive searches are essential to a good "map experience". If you search on Google Maps for a place, business, or business type; you get results for that immediate area. On Apple Maps, the search returned could be on the other side of the planet, as I found out, searching for "soup dumplings" in the middle of Chinatown, San Francisco. Apple Maps returned a location in Taiwan. Google Maps returned a place around the corner.

You mean you didn't *know* she was off making lots of little phone companies?

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