Report: Apple Using Camera-Equipped Minivans To Capture Map Data

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It’s a very safe bet that Google has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Google Maps and Street View. While many people regard Street View as eye candy, it has actually served a more important function: capturing real-world geo-data for Google Maps.

Now Apple appears to following in Google’s tire tracks.

According to an article in 9to5 Mac the mystery of the earlier Apple minivan sightings has been solved. Speculation at the time was that these vans were either capturing Street View-like images or that this was part of Apple’s nascent effort to build a self-driving vehicle. The answer is neither, says 9to5 Mac, although Street View imagery is potentially part of the equation.

Self-Driving car (Apple?)

The 9t05 Mac article asserts these vans are helping Apple “develop[ ] its first entirely in-house mapping database to reduce its reliance on TomTom” and that a Street View-like body of images will potentially be a byproduct of the process. This is all part of a broad set of Apple Maps upgrades reportedly coming (or to be announced) at WWDC in June.

In addition to reducing its TomTom dependence, Apple is reportedly doing so with Yelp-provided images and content. For example, Apple has quietly begun diversifying review sources, for both US and international business locations, adding content from TripAdvisor and Booking.com.

Assuming the 9to5 Mac report is accurate it suggests that Apple has come to the same conclusion that Google did years ago. In order to have the highest quality mapping product you have to own key parts of the stack, including the base data.

If this is in fact the answer to the minivan mystery I hope it doesn’t mean the end of the iCar fantasy.

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