Apple Maps Vehicles Begin Collecting Street-Level Data in Japan

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Apple Maps vehicles equipped with LiDAR sensors have begun collecting street-level data in Japan for the first time this month.


Apple will be surveying the Tokyo and Urayasu areas between June and October of this year, according to a new Apple Maps vehicles page created specifically for Japan, first spotted by Japanese blog Mac Otakara.

Japan is the 11th country where the vehicles are collecting data since the initiative began in 2015, alongside Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

To date, Apple has periodically updated a list of locations where the vehicles will be collecting data on its U.S. website, including other countries, but Japan now has its own localized page, perhaps to satisfy local laws.

The verbiage on the page has suggested that Apple could be working on a feature similar to Google's Street View for Apple Maps:

Apple is driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps. Some of this data will be published in future Apple Maps updates.

We are committed to protecting your privacy while collecting this data. For example, we will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication.

In 2015, Mark Gurman reported that Apple planned to launch a 3D street view feature, based on a combination of its existing Flyover mode with street-level data. He also said the data would help Apple shift to an in-house mapping database by 2018, reducing its reliance on third-party sources like TomTom.

By the sound of it, Apple's mapping data could be used for advanced augmented reality applications, as part of a future update to ARKit.

Early speculation suggested the vehicles could be the basis of an Apple Car, but those rumors quieted down after the vans were labeled with Apple Maps decals, and because Apple has shifted towards testing self-driving software with Lexus 450h SUVs near its headquarters in California.

If you spot an Apple Maps vehicle in a location yet to be listed on Apple's website, be sure to let us know at tips@macrumors.com.

Top Rated Comments

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25 months ago

Why is this expanding so slowly? It's not like Apple can't afford more mapping vehicles and drivers.

Apple has a huge number of people working on mapping, over 4000 in it's India mapping center alone. However, they have other massive mapping projects underway to take them past Google maps, e.g., GM street view is very clunky to use, Apple is designing "fly down" and smooth visual route driving. Another example, AM is doing customized transit around the world. They opted to not do what Google did and simply import all the third party data to flip the switch and have transit info everywhere at once. Instead, they are going a much more time consuming and expensive route of customizing each region so it's more accurate and much more useful. Google has been criticized for their transit information. Then there's the airport and malls mapping, and so on.

Remember also that Apple is rolling out traffic, etc., to more and more countries.

All of this is underpinned by the creation of its own "base map" that Apple has been spending billions on and working on for several years and hopes to have completed this year.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
25 months ago

I think they should devote their resources to restoring their relationship with Google and get Google Maps back into the iOS releases. Doesn't make sense to double up on work.

Unlikely to happen in a current competitive environment. Apple either need to push forward with their own Maps or keep hostage to third party demands for iOS user data, which was the initial problem with Google Maps. Apple must have realised by now that mapping is a vital part of their services and outsourcing it would not be a good idea.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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25 months ago
As far behind the curve as Apple is on this, I welcome another mapping service that isn’t supplied by an advertising company.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
25 months ago

I think they should devote their resources to restoring their relationship with Google and get Google Maps back into the iOS releases. Doesn't make sense to double up on work.

Why not just shut down the whole company and tell everyone to just buy an Android phone and a Windows PC because it doesn’t make sense to to double the work?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
25 months ago
Why is this expanding so slowly? It's not like Apple can't afford more mapping vehicles and drivers.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
25 months ago

Unlikely to happen in a current competitive environment. Apple either need to push forward with their own Maps or keep hostage to third party demands for iOS user data, which was the initial problem with Google Maps. Apple must have realised by now that mapping is a vital part of their services and outsourcing it would not be a good idea.

In many countries Google Maps relies on map data sourced from local mapping companies. In Japan, that data is provided by a company named Zenrin and their maps are far more accurate than whatever Apple Maps is using.
Why Apple didn't make a deal with them years ago when they ditched Google is beyond me.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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