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

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.

applevanscreenshot

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
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.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
66 months ago

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:
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
66 months ago
Hopefully, they won't be using Apple Maps for navigation.

Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
66 months ago

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
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
66 months ago
Give Apple a break.

Google's main function for many years has been searching and maps.
Of course they're better at it. That's all they do "well".
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
66 months ago

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


I do. Been using Apple maps from the early beta days without any issues.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
66 months ago
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:
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Doubles the Price of RAM Upgrade on Entry-Level 13-Inch MacBook Pro

Saturday May 30, 2020 4:00 pm PDT by
Apple today doubled the price for upgrading the RAM on the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, with customers in the United States now being charged $200 to move from 8GB to 16GB compared to the previous $100 upgrade price. Similar increases are seen in other countries, such as moving from €125 to €250 in Germany and from £100 to £200 in the United Kingdom. Current pricing on RAM upgrade for ...

Tim Cook Addresses George Floyd's Death and Ensuing Protests and Riots as Apple Temporarily Closes Some U.S. Stores

Sunday May 31, 2020 8:04 pm PDT by
Amid unrest in numerous U.S. cities following last week's killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Apple CEO Tim Cook has shared an internal memo with employees (via Bloomberg) addressing the pain that many are feeling and urging others to commit "to creating a better, more just world for everyone." Cook also announced that Apple is making donations to several groups challenging...

Apple's First MacBook Pro With a Retina Display Will Become 'Obsolete' in 30 Days

Monday June 1, 2020 7:50 am PDT by
If you are still hanging on to a Mid 2012 model of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display, and require a new battery or other repairs, be sure to book an appointment with a service provider as soon as possible. In an internal memo today, obtained by MacRumors, Apple has indicated that this particular MacBook Pro model will be marked as "obsolete" worldwide on June 30, 2020, just over...

Top Stories: macOS 10.15.5, New Powerbeats Pro Colors, iPhone 12 and 13 Rumors, and More

Saturday May 30, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
This week saw an interesting mix of news and rumors on the Apple front, led by the release of macOS 10.15.5, which brings a new battery health feature to newer Mac notebooks, while we also saw the official announcement of new colors for the Powerbeats Pro earphones. On the rumor front, we heard a few tidbits about not just this year's iPhone 12 but also next year's iPhone, while we saw...

8 Mac Tips and Tricks You Might Not Know

Friday May 29, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
There are tons of hidden features and shortcuts for Macs that Apple has built into macOS over the years, ranging from shortcuts to keyboard commands to other little hacks to make Mac usage just a bit simpler. In our latest YouTube video, we highlighted several of these tips and tricks, and some of them might just be new to you. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Tr...

6.1-inch 'iPhone 12' Production to Begin in July Ahead of Other 2020 Models

Monday June 1, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Volume production of Apple's forthcoming 6.1-inch "iPhone 12" models will start in July-August ahead of the rest of the company's flagship iPhone lineup this year, according to a new report by DigiTimes. Apple is widely rumored to be launching four new ‌iPhone‌ models in the usual September or October timeframe, although supply constraints and delays in production ramp-up could cause a...

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 13.5.1 With Fixes for Recent 'unc0ver' Jailbreak Vulnerability

Monday June 1, 2020 9:58 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 13.5.1, minor updates that come a little over a week after the release of iOS and iPadOS 13.5, major updates that brought the Exposure Notification API, FaceTime changes, mask-related unlocking updates and more. The iOS and iPadOS 13.5.1 updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the updates, go to Settings >...

Apple Introducing New Internal USB-C Diagnostic Tool

Sunday May 31, 2020 7:26 pm PDT by
Apple is introducing a new internal USB-C Diagnostic Tool as a successor to its existing Serial Number Reader, which can be used to both collect a device's serial number directly from its logic board and test power on a device itself. Image via Giulio Zompetti With only a Lightning version previously available, images have surfaced of a new USB-C Diagnostic Tool (UDT) that appears to be known ...

Powerbeats Pro Debut in Four New Colors: Spring Yellow, Cloud Pink, Lava Red, and Glacier Blue

Friday May 29, 2020 10:00 am PDT by
Following a couple of leaks in recent weeks, Beats today is officially announcing four new colors for its Powerbeats Pro wireless earphones: Spring Yellow, Cloud Pink, Lava Red, and Glacier Blue. The new earphones will go on sale June 9 and sell for the same $249.95 price as the existing color options. Aside from the colors, the new Powerbeats Pro models are otherwise identical to the...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 Supplemental Update With Security Fix

Monday June 1, 2020 10:56 am PDT by
Apple today released a supplemental update for macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. The supplemental update comes a week after the release of the macOS Catalina 10.15.5 update. ‌macOS Catalina‌ 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the System...