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

Popular Stories

iOS 18 CarPlay Feature

iOS 18 Adds These 5 New Features to CarPlay

Thursday June 13, 2024 7:44 am PDT by
Apple did not mention CarPlay during its WWDC keynote this week, but iOS 18 includes a handful of new features for the in-car software. Overall, there is not a whole lot new for CarPlay on iOS 18, with changes seemingly limited to the Messages and Settings apps so far. Below, we recap everything new for CarPlay on iOS 18. New for CarPlay on iOS 18 1. Contact Photos in Messages App...
ios 18 button bulge

iOS 18 Adds Pop-Out Bezel Animation When Pressing iPhone Buttons

Tuesday June 11, 2024 10:40 am PDT by
iOS 18 includes a small but interesting change for the buttons on the iPhone, adding more of a visual element when changing volume, activating the Action button, or locking the screen. When you press an iPhone button in iOS 18, the display bezel bulges outward slightly. This feature is available for the volume buttons, Action button and the power button, and it will also likely be used for...
iOS 18 Mock iPhone 16 Feature Gray

Revealed: iOS 18 Works With These iPhone Models

Monday June 10, 2024 3:57 am PDT by
iOS 18 will be compatible with the same iPhone models as iOS 17, according to a post on X today from a private account with a proven track record of sharing build numbers for upcoming iOS updates. iOS 18 will be compatible with the iPhone XR, and hence also the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max models with the same A12 Bionic chip, but older iPhone models will miss out. Here is the full...
maxresdefault

First Look at Messages via Satellite in iOS 18

Thursday June 13, 2024 11:29 am PDT by
Apple has been gradually expanding its suite of satellite connectivity features for iPhone, and iOS 18 brings a significant new one in the form of Messages via satellite. The feature allows users to send and receive iMessages and SMS texts, including emoji and Tapbacks, while out of range of cellular and Wi-Fi networks. CNET met up with Apple's senior director of platform product marketing,...
iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

Massive iPhone Upgrade Coming This Week But These Devices Will Miss Out

Sunday June 9, 2024 1:25 pm PDT by
Apple is planning a major AI overhaul in iOS 18, with a feature set it is referring to as "Apple Intelligence." However, these new features will not work on older iPhones, even if they do appear on the new operating system's device compatibility list. Apple's initial AI roadmap for iOS 18 is said to come in two parts: Basic AI features that will be processed on-device, and more advanced...
Generic iOS 18 Feature Real Mock

Your iPhone 15 Can Show the Time When It's Out of Battery in iOS 18

Wednesday June 12, 2024 2:57 pm PDT by
The iPhone has had a Power Reserve function that holds back a small amount of battery life to allow features like Find My and NFC unlocking to work even when your device has died, and in iOS 18, Apple seems to be improving the feature further for the iPhone 15 models. As demonstrated on Reddit, when the battery on an iPhone running iOS 18 is exhausted, the phone can continue to show the time ...

Top Rated Comments

asdavis10 Avatar
78 months ago
Apple Maps Beta (beta)™
Score: 53 Votes (Like | Disagree)
calstanford Avatar
78 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
78 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
78 months ago
I have a bad feeling about this...
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
adhir Avatar
78 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
78 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)