Apple Maps to Be Rebuilt 'From the Ground Up' With First-Party Data Over the Next Year

Apple today announced that it will be rebuilding its Maps app "from the ground up" with street-level data collected from its fleet of Apple Maps vehicles, high resolution satellite imagery, and anonymized, random segments of navigation sessions from iPhone users, which Apple refers to as "probe data."

apple maps old new

Image: TechCrunch

TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino has published an in-depth overview of the changes coming to Apple Maps, which will be available in the San Francisco area starting with the next iOS 12 beta next week, cover all of Northern California by this fall, and roll out across the rest of the United States over the next year.

In short, Panzarino says Apple Maps will be switching to its own base map, reducing but not fully eliminating its reliance on third-party providers like TomTom, which will yield significant improvements to traffic, real-time road conditions, road systems, new construction, changes in pedestrian walkways, and more.

Apple also promises more relevant search results that, as Panzarino quips, are hopefully on the same continent now.

In a follow-up question-and-answer piece, Panzarino noted Apple Maps will more accurately display foliage like grass and trees, pools, parking lots, exact building shapes, sports areas like baseball diamonds, tennis and basketball courts, and pedestrian pathways that are commonly walked but previously unmapped.

His questionnaire also confirms that the overall design of Apple Maps will remain similar for now, beyond the additional detail.

apple maps sports building parking

Image: TechCrunch

Panzarino spoke in detail about the changes with Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue, who oversees Apple Maps:

"Since we introduced this six years ago — we won't rehash all the issues we've had when we introduced it — we've done a huge investment in getting the map up to par," said Cue. "When we launched, a lot of it was all about directions and getting to a certain place. Finding the place and getting directions to that place. We've done a huge investment of making millions of changes, adding millions of locations, updating the map and changing the map more frequently. All of those things over the past six years."

Cue noted further improvements will take Apple Maps to "the next level":

"We wanted to take this to the next level," says Cue. "We have been working on trying to create what we hope is going to be the best map app in the world, taking it to the next step. That is building all of our own map data from the ground up."

More from Cue:

"We don't think there's anybody doing this level of work that we're doing," adds Cue. "We haven't announced this. We haven't told anybody about this. It's one of those things that we've been able to keep pretty much a secret. Nobody really knows about it. We're excited to get it out there. Over the next year, we'll be rolling it out, section by section in the US."

Cue's notion that nobody really knew about these plans is debatable, as its Apple Maps vehicles have been a telltale sign since 2015, the same year Mark Gurman reported that Apple would switch to its own base map by 2018.

Apple's in-house base map will continue to improve thanks to probe data. When an iPhone user is navigating with Apple Maps, Apple may collect anonymized data from middle segments of the trip, but never the beginning or end point. Apple says no personal information is ever attached to the data it receives.

The secret sauce here is what Apple calls probe data. Essentially little slices of vector data that represent direction and speed transmitted back to Apple completely anonymized with no way to tie it to a specific user or even any given trip. It’s reaching in and sipping a tiny amount of data from millions of users instead, giving it a holistic, real-time picture without compromising user privacy.

Despite the privacy push, iPhone users can still disable the collection of probe data from their device, if they so desire, by opening the Settings app and tapping Privacy > Location Services > Maps > Never.

apple maps segmentation

Image: TechCrunch

In addition to improved accuracy, Cue said Apple will be able to quickly make changes and updates to its base map, such as new roads:

"For example, a road network is something that takes a much longer time to change currently. In the new map infrastructure, we can change that relatively quickly. If a new road opens up, immediately we can see that and make that change very, very quickly around it. It's much, much more rapid to do changes in the new map environment."

Apple did not confirm when the improvements could reach other countries, but Cue noted that the Apple Maps team is global, and Apple Maps vehicles have already surveyed parts of at least ten other countries, including Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

apple maps van ipad

iPad-based system in Apple Maps vehicle via TechCrunch

Apple also hasn't confirmed if it will use the data it collects to eventually introduce its own street view feature like Google Maps.

The full article is well worth a read, diving deep into advanced technologies like 3D point clouds and Deep Lambertian Networks that Apple is using to parse its mapping data. Panzarino was also invited for a ride in an Apple Maps vehicle, and he shared interesting photos and details about their setup.

TechCrunch: Apple is rebuilding Maps from the ground up

Top Rated Comments

asdavis10 Avatar
46 months ago
Apple Maps Beta (beta)™
Score: 53 Votes (Like | Disagree)
calstanford Avatar
46 months ago
If they need months to go from the Bay Area to Northern California, I don't wanna know when they'd cover Australia or Hong Kong or South Africa or Argentina. Years to come.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NinjaHERO Avatar
46 months ago
I use Apple maps constantly and I gotta say it's FAR improved from where it started. But there's always room for more improvements. So looking forward to the "better" maps.

Also Apple, maybe on Carplay let the maps stay on the screen when I am answering a text. No reason to hide the map I need to drive so you can show me a blank screen with no words on it. Really I get it. Siri is trying to understand me. Don't need the fancy pulsing circle. :-)
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cicalinarrot Avatar
46 months ago
I have a bad feeling about this...
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
adhir Avatar
46 months ago
I'm a fan of today's Apple Maps and prefer it to Goog/Waze -- partially because I don't want google tracking my every location. Excited to see what's in store with the new one.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
The Don Onez Avatar
46 months ago
Been using Google Maps. I only use Apple maps when other apps open a location and it defaults to Apple maps.

Is there a way to change this where everything will open in Google Maps instead of Apple maps?
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole 16x9 120hz

Analyst: All iPhone 14 Models to Feature 120Hz Displays, 6GB of RAM, and More

Friday January 14, 2022 7:02 am PST by
Apple is rumored to announce four new iPhone 14 models in September, and ahead of time, analyst Jeff Pu has outlined his expectations for the devices. In a research note with Haitong International Securities, obtained by MacRumors, Pu claimed that all iPhone 14 models will feature ProMotion displays, compared to only Pro models currently. ProMotion enables a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz ...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
iPad Pro Big Ol Logo Orange

Next iPad Pro Might Feature Large Glass Apple Logo to Allow Wireless Charging

Friday January 14, 2022 10:44 am PST by
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu last year reported that Apple had tested a new iPad Pro with a glass back for wireless charging capabilities. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said he expects the new iPad Pro to be released in 2022. While the new iPad Pro is still on track to feature wireless charging, 9to5Mac's Filipe Espósito today reported that Apple may have ultimately...
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...